Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 35, Issue 4, pp 381–400 | Cite as

The role of sea anemones as refuges and feeding habitats for the temperate fish Oxylebius pictus

  • Joel Elliott


This study describes an association between the temperate zone fish Oxylebius pictus and sea anemones in Barkley Sound, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. Fish were observed swimming and resting unharmed among the tentacles, or next to a column of Urticina lofotensis (98% of all observations) and U. piscivora (2% of all observations). These associations were most commonly observed at moderately exposed sites where there were relatively high densities of O. pictus and anemones. Most associations occurred at night when the fish were inactive. Small young-of-year fish (< 6 cm total length) associated closely with sea anemones, larger individuals spent less time with their hosts, and most adults (> 12 cm total length) sheltered in rock holes and crevices. Experiments demonstrated that small O. pictus were more vulnerable to predators than large individuals. Urticina lofotensis and U. piscivora were large, persistent structures in the study habitats that provided effective refuge for O. pictus from predators. Anemone size, shape, tentacular adhesive force, and presence of copepod associates influenced patterns of host specificity. Oxylebius pictus fed on copepods and other crustaceans that associated with U. lofotensis and host sea anemones served as both refuges and feeding habitats for the fish. The sea anemones did not appear to receive any significant benefit from the relationship and the fish was considered to be a facultative commensal.

Key words

Symbiosis Commensalism Cnidaria Host specificity Predation Hexagrammidae 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References cited

  1. Abel, E.F. 1960. Liaison facultative d'un poisson (Gobius bucchichii Steindachner) et d'une anémone (Anemonia sulcata Peen.) en Méditerranée. Vie Milieu 11: 517–531.Google Scholar
  2. Albrecht, 1977. Einige Beobachtungen an Anemonenfishen in der Karibischen See. Bijdragen tot Dierkunde 47: 109–119.Google Scholar
  3. Allen, G.R. 1975. Anemonefishes. 2nd Ed. T.F.H. Publications, Neptune City. 352 pp.Google Scholar
  4. Behrents, K.C. 1987. The influence of shelter availability on recruitment and early survivorship of Lythrypnus dalli Gilbert (Pisces: Gobiidae). J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 107: 45–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Colin, P.L. & J.B. Heiser. 1973. Associations of two species of cardinalfishes (Apogonidae: Pisces) with sea anemones in the West Indies. Bull. Mar. Sci. 23: 521–524.Google Scholar
  6. DeMartini, E.E. 1976. The adaptive significance of territoriality and egg cannibalism in the painted greeling, Oxylebius pictus Gill, a northeastern Pacific marine fish. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Washington, Seattle. 287 pp.Google Scholar
  7. DeMartini, E.E. 1985. Social behavior and coloration changes in Oxylebius pictus (Pisces: Hexagrammidae). Copeia 1985: 669–685.Google Scholar
  8. DeMartini, E.E. 1987. Paternal defense, cannibalism and polygamy: factors influencing the reproductive success of painted greenling (Pisces, Hexagrammidae). Anim. Behav. 35: 1145–1158.Google Scholar
  9. DeMartini, E.E. & Anderson . 1980. Comparative survivorship and life history of painted greenling (Oxylebius pictus) in Puget Sound, Washington and Monterey Bay, California. Env. Biol. Fish. 5: 33–47.Google Scholar
  10. Dill, L.M. 1987. Animal decision making and its ecological consequences: the future of aquatic ecology and behaviour. Can. J. Zool. 65: 803–811.Google Scholar
  11. Dunn, D.F. 1981. The clownfish sea anemones. Trans. Amer. Phil. Soc. 71: 1–115.Google Scholar
  12. Elliott, J.K. 1987. The fish and crustacean associates of the sea anemones Urticina lofotensis and Urticina piscivora. M.Sc. Thesis, University of Alberta, Edmonton. 147 pp.Google Scholar
  13. Elliott, J., J. Dalby Jr., R. Cohen & D.M. Ross. 1985. Behavioral interactions between the aetinian Tealia piscivora (Anthozoa: Actiniaria) and the asteroid Dermasterias imbricata. Can. J. Zool. 63: 1921–1929.Google Scholar
  14. Fautin, D. 1986. Why do anemonefishes inhabit only some host actinians? Env. Biol. Fish. 15: 171–180.Google Scholar
  15. Fricke, H.W. 1975. Selektives Feinderkennen bei dem Anemonenfish Amphiprion bicinctus (Rüppell). J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 19: 1–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gendron, R.P. & K. Mayzel. 1976. Association of Thalassoma bifasciatum with Condylactis gigantea in the Bahamas. Copeia 1976: 382–384.Google Scholar
  17. George, E.L. & W.F. Hadley 1979. Food and habitat partitioning between rock bass (Ambloplites rupestris) and smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieui) young of the year. Trans. Amer. Fish. Soc. 108: 253–261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gotto, R.V. 1979. The association of copepods with marine invertebrates. Adv. Mar. Biol. 16: 1–109.Google Scholar
  19. Hand, C. 1955. The sea anemones of central California. Part II The endomyarian and mesomyarian anemones. Wasmann Journal of Biology 13: 37–99.Google Scholar
  20. Hanlon, R.T. & L. Kaufman. 1976. Associations of seven West Indian reef fishes with sea anemones. Bull. Mar. Sci. 26: 225–232.Google Scholar
  21. Hanlon, R.T., R.F. Hixon & D.G. Smith. 1983. Behavioral associations of seven West Indian reef fishes with sea anemones at Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles. Bull. Mar. Sci. 33: 928–934.Google Scholar
  22. Hanlon, R.T. & R.F. Hixon. 1986. Behavioral associations of coral reef fishes with the sea anemone Condylactis gigantea in the Dry Tortugas, Florida. Bull. Mar. Sci. 39: 130–134.Google Scholar
  23. Hart, J.L. 1973. Pacific fishes of Canada. Fish. Res. Board. Can. Bull. 180: 1–740.Google Scholar
  24. Herald, E.S. 1972. Fishes of North America. Doubleday, New York 254 pp.Google Scholar
  25. Hobson, E.S., W.N. McFarland & J.R. Chase. 1981. Crepuscular and nocturnal activities of Californian nearshore fishes, with consideration of their scotopic visual pigments and the photic environment. U.S. Fish. Bull. 79: 1–30.Google Scholar
  26. Humes, A.G. 1982. A review of the Copepoda associated with sea anemones and anemonelike forms (Cnidaria: Anthozoa). Trans. Amer. Phil. Soc. 72: 1–120.Google Scholar
  27. Keast, A. & J. Harker. 1977. Strip counts as a means of determining densities and habitat utilization patterns in lake fishes. Env. Biol. Fish. 1: 181–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Levine, D.M. & O.J. Blanchard, Jr. 1980. Acclimation of two shrimps of the genus Periclimenes to sea anemones. Bull. Mar. Sci. 30: 460–466.Google Scholar
  29. Lønning, S. & W. Vader. 1984. Sibling species of Doridicola (Copepoda: Lichomolgidae) from California sea anemones: biology and host specificity. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 77: 99–135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lubbock, R. 1980. Why are clownfishes not stung by sea anemones? Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B 207: 35–61.Google Scholar
  31. Mariscal, R.N. 1966. The symbiosis between tropical sea anemones and fishes: a review. pp. 57–171. In: R.I. Bowman(ed.) The Galapagos, University of California Press, Berkeley.Google Scholar
  32. Mariscal, R.N. 1970. The nature of the symbiosis between IndoPacific anemone fishes and sea anemones. Mar. Biol. 6: 58–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Mariscal, R.N. 1972. Behavior of symbiotic fishes and sea anemones. pp. 327–360. In: B.L. Olla & H.E. Winn(ed.) Behavior of Marine Animals, Plenum Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  34. Marliave, J.B. 1977. Substratum preferences of settling larvae of marine fishes reared in the laboratory. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 27: 47–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Mayr, E. 1963. Animal species and evolution. Harvard University Press, Cambridge. 797 pp.Google Scholar
  36. Miyagawa, K. 1989. Experimental analysis of the symbiosis between anemonefish and sea anemones. Ethology 80: 19–46.Google Scholar
  37. Moulton, L.L. 1977. An ecological analysis of fishes inhabiting the rocky nearshore regions of northern Puget Sound, Washington. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Washington, Seattle. 194 pp.Google Scholar
  38. Ochi, H. 1985. Temporal patterns of breeding and larval settlement in a temperate population of the tropical anemonefish, Amphiprion clarkii. Jap. J. Ichthyol. 32: 248–257.Google Scholar
  39. Peden, A.E. & D.E. Wilson. 1976. Distribution of intertidal and subtidal fishes of northern British Columbia and southeastern Alaska. Syesis 9: 221–248.Google Scholar
  40. Rinne, J.N. 1976. Coded spine clipping to identify individuals of the spiny-rayed fish Tilapia. J. Fish. Res. Board Can. 33: 2626–2629.Google Scholar
  41. Robertson, D.R. & J.M. Sheldon. 1979. Competitive interactions and the availability of sleeping sites for a diurnal coral reef fish. J. exp. mar. Biol. Ecol. 40: 285–298.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Savino, J.F. & R.A. Stein. 1982. Predator-prey interaction between largemouth bass and bluegills as influenced by simulated submerged vegetation. Trans. Amer. Fish. Soc. 111: 255–266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Schlichter, D. 1970. Thalassoma amblycephalus ein neuer Anemonefish-Typ. Mar. Biol. 7: 269–272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Sebens, K.P. & G. Laakso. 1978. The genus Tealia (Anthozoa: Actiniaria) in the waters of the San Juan Archipelago and the Olympic Peninsula. Wasmann J. Biol. (for 1977) 35: 152–168.Google Scholar
  45. Shulman, M.J. 1985. Recruitment of coral reef fishes: effects of distribution of predators and shelter. Ecology 66: 1056–1066.Google Scholar
  46. Smith, W.L. 1973. Record of a fish associated with a Caribbean sea anemone. Copeia 1973: 597–598.Google Scholar
  47. Stanton, G. 1977. Habitat partitioning among decapods associated with Lebrunia danae at Grand Bahama. pp. 169–175. In: Proc. Third Inter. Coral Reef Symp., Univ. Miami (R. S. M. A. S.), Miami.Google Scholar
  48. Stevenson, R.A. 1963. Behavior of the pomacentrid reef fish Dascyllus albisella Gill in relation to the anemone Maracanthia cookei. Copeia 1963: 612–614.Google Scholar
  49. Thresher, R. E. & A.M. Gronell. 1978. Subcutaneous tagging of small reef fishes. Copeia 1978: 352–353.Google Scholar
  50. Werner, E.E. & D.J. Hall. 1988. Ontogenetic habitat shifts in bluegill: the foraging rate predation risk trade-off. Ecology 69: 1352–1366.Google Scholar
  51. Witman, J.D. 1987. Subtidal coexistence: storms, grazing, mutualism, and the zonation of kelps and mussels. Ecol. Monogr. 57: 167–187.Google Scholar
  52. Woodin, S.A. 1978. Refuges, disturbance, and community structure: a marine soft-bottom example. Ecology 59: 274–284.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joel Elliott
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Zoology, Biological Sciences CentreUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada

Personalised recommendations