Searching for a Toxic Key to Unlock the Mystery of Anemonefish and Anemone Symbiosis

Anita Nedosyko, Jeanne Young, John Edwards, Karen Burke Da Silva

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    26 Citations (Scopus)


    Twenty-six species of anemonefish of the genera Amphiprion and monospecific Premnas, use only 10 species of anemones as hosts in the wild (Families: Actiniidae, Stichodactylidae and Thalassianthidae). Of these 10 anemone species some are used by multiple species of anemonefish while others have only a single anemonefish symbiont. Past studies have explored the different patterns of usage between anemonefish species and anemone species; however the evolution of this relationship remains unknown and has been little studied over the past decade. Here we reopen the case, comparing the toxicity of crude venoms obtained from anemones that host anemonefish as a way to investigate why some anemone species are used as a host more than others. Specifically, for each anemone species we investigated acute toxicity using Artemia francisca (LC 50), haemolytic toxicity using ovine erythrocytes (EC50) and neurotoxicity using shore crabs (Ozius truncatus). We found that haemolytic and neurotoxic activity varied among host anemone species. Generally anemone species that displayed greater haemolytic activity also displayed high neurotoxic activity and tend to be more toxic on average as indicated by acute lethality analysis. An overall venom toxicity ranking for each anemone species was compared with the number of anemonefish species that are known to associate with each anemone species in the wild. Interestingly, anemones with intermediate toxicity had the highest number of anemonefish associates, whereas anemones with either very low or very high toxicity had the fewest anemonefish associates. These data demonstrate that variation in toxicity among host anemone species may be important in the establishment and maintenance of anemonefish anemone symbiosis.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere98449
    Pages (from-to)1-8
    Number of pages8
    JournalPLoS One
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - 30 May 2014


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