When to Change Sex

A handy guide from biologists

1:59pm, January 11, 2004

Hollywood does sensationalize, so the unnatural sex-role behavior in last summer's cartoon hit Finding Nemo shouldn't have surprised fish biologists. In the movie, a male clownfish loses his mate and most of their offspring in an attack on their home within an anemone, but—here's the extraordinary part—that older male fish continues to act as a father, and the surviving youngster behaves as a son. To be fair, human children seeing the movie have not seemed greatly traumatized by the anomaly. One can only hope that saltwater aquarium hobbyists keep tanks with juvenile clownfish far from the DVD player.

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