Damselfishes, which include the anemonefishes (Amphiprion and Premnas), range from five to 36 cm, with most specimens less than a foot long. Their bodies tend to be high, oval and laterally compressed, with the lateral line interrupted. The single, continuous dorsal fin has eight to 17 spines and 10 to 18 soft rays, the anal fin usually has two spines (occasionally three), and the caudal fin is typically forked. Adults of many species have filamentous extensions on all but the pectoral fins. Ctenoid scales are present on the body, head, and unpaired fin bases. Pomacentrids, with a few exceptions, have one rather than two nostrils on each side, and a small mouth. The palate is toothless, and the floor of the mouth contains a pharyngeal plate (a triangular fused tooth plate). Teeth may be arranged in one or two rows and may be incisorlike, especially in territorial forms that graze on algae, or conical, often seen in forms that live in the water column and catch small organisms (See an illustration of tooth morphology in fish). Coloration of adult damselfishes ranges from brilliant to drab and can vary with mood and time of day. Juveniles, especially in the territorial bottom-dwellers, often possess different, brighter colors than adults of the same species. (Click here to see a fish diagram).
In most pomacentrid groups males and females differ ( sexual dimorphism) externally only in the form of the urogenital papilla, and (except for one species) lack permanent sexual dichromatism. The majority, however, do assume sex-specific colors during spawning. Usually the male, but sometimes the female (and sometimes neither), assumes courtship colors, the pattern and intensity of which vary according not only to species, but also to geographic and perhaps other factors. Adult males tend to be larger than adult females, but the opposite is true for anemonefishes (Amphiprion and Premnas), which are protandrous hermaphrodites: a male can change sex if the dominant female (the largest fish in the group) dies. In these fishes a single individual possesses ovarian as well as testicular tissue.
Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike; female larger; male larger; sexes colored or patterned differently; male more colorful
- Moyle, P., J. Cech. 2000. Fishes: An introduction to ichthyology – fourth edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.