So what is a Harlequin Filefish?

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So what is a Harlequin Filefish?

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Harlequin Filefish - tiny little fish that live as pairs or threesomes in amongst the branches of finger corals (Acropora) and take on the smell of the coral they live amongst so that predators at night, like moray eels, can't detect them.

This research was largely undertaken by Dr Rohan Brooker, with research undertaken at Lizard Island Research Station.

Rohan Brooker is a marine biologist at the University of Delaware in the US. During his PhD he studied the colorful coral-feeding Harlequin Filefish, Oxymonacanthus longirostris. He discovered that, through its diet, these fish end up smelling enough like coral that predators cannot tell them apart from the surrounding coral branches. In fact, the fishes smell matches the coral so closely that even small crabs, that live their whole lives in amongst the coral, get confused.

Previously only seen in plant-eating caterpillars, his study provided the first evidence of 'chemical' camouflage in a fish. Unfortunately, due to their very specialized diet, these charismatic fish are especially vulnerable to coral bleaching and ongoing changes to reefs.

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