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Nemo puts clownfish in spotlight

From Ann Kellan

Despite their jovial name and orange coloring, clownfish can be deadly serious about social status.
Despite their jovial name and orange coloring, clownfish can be deadly serious about social status.

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(CNN) -- The hit movie "Finding Nemo" has put Nemo and his species Anemonefishes -- more commonly known as clownfish -- in the public eye.

Now a study released released in the scientific journal Nature has shown these fish to be quite the social climbers, doing just about anything to get ahead -- even changing their sex.

According to University of California researcher Peter Buston, clownfish live in groups where physical size determines their social ranking.

Within each group only two will mate and reproduce.

The breeding female is the largest and number one in the hierarchy, the breeding male is number two in size and ranking.

When the breeding female dies, the breeding male gets larger, changes its sex, moves up the social ladder, and becomes the breeding female.

In turn number three in line, and the third largest in the group, grows and becomes number two, the breeding male.

According to the research, a clownfish that grows larger than the fish ahead of it on the social ladder, is often seen as a threat and will likely get killed.

It seems Nemo and his like don't clown around when it comes to social status.

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