News / Species Spotlight / Species Spotlight - Orange Skunk Clownfish (Amphiprion sandaracinos) (12/20/17)

Species Spotlight - Orange Skunk Clownfish (Amphiprion sandaracinos)

Orange Skunk Clownfish (Amphiprion sandaracinos)
The skunk clownfishes are one of the trickier Amphiprion subgroups to identify. The handful of species involved all tend to look quite similar, and the common names are often confusingly homophonous. To give you an idea, the Skunk Clownfish (A. akallopisos) is nearly identical in appearance to the Orange Skunk Clownfish (A. sandaracinos), but is actually a much closer relation to the Pink Skunk Clownfish (A. perideraion), a species which, despite its name, can sometimes be orange.

The easiest way to understand these fishes is to look at their choice of host anemone. The skunks are very choosy about which cnidarians they associate with in the wild. Both the Skunk and Pink Skunk Clownfishes gravitate towards the Magnificent Sea Anemone (H. magnifica), as do their relatives, the Blackfoot Clownfish (A. nigripes), the Chagos Clownfish (A. chagosensis), and the Pacific Clownfish (A. pacificus). On the other hand, the Orange Skunk favors the carpet anemones (Stichodactyla spp.). In areas of the Coral Triangle where both the Orange and Pink Skunks cooccur, it is this specialization that keeps the two separate.

As we already mentioned, the Orange Skunk Clownfish is visually most similar to A. akallopisos, a species found along the coast of Africa and in the Eastern Indian Ocean (but, interestingly enough, not anywhere in between). The way to tell them apart is by the relative width of the white stripe running along the back, which is noticeably thicker in the Orange Skunk. It also extends a bit further, reaching to the upper lip, versus the abbreviated stripe of A. akallopisos that falls just short. The color of the dorsal and caudal fins is also indicative. In the Orange Skunk, theyre orange; in the Skunk, theyre white (though sometimes with a hint of orange along the edges).

Once these details are known, it becomes fairly simple to identify A. sandaracinos, but this is apparently something that this fish is still struggling with itself. Along the eastern portions its Coral Triangle distribution, its not uncommon to find specimens paired up with the Bluestripe Clownfish (A. chrysopterus). This results in a hybrid offspring known as the Whitebonnet Clownfish. Traditionally, this unique fish has been treated under the name A. leucokranos, but its no longer thought to be a true species. It is, however, especially abundant for a hybrid, at least, in the wild.