12 fishy facts for back to school, with Dory & Nemo

Many kids headed back to school in the next few weeks will no doubt have their heads full of the hit film Finding Dory.

The animated feature has been topping box offices in the UK and Ireland, with families flocking to see the long-awaited sequel to Finding Nemo. But while everyone knows Dory, not many know that she can go by a string of different names, among them Regal Blue Tang, Surgeonfish and Doctorfish. And did you know that it’s a myth that fish have memory problems like Dory does?

These 12 facts are designed to give kids, parents and their teachers a bit of schooling (geddit?) in our finned friends. And they’re also aimed at making that summer-to-school transition just a little bit easier.

12 Fishy Facts about Regal Blue Tangs and Clownfish, aka Dory and Nemo:

  1. The Regal Blue Tang’s scientific name is Paracanthurus Hepatus, although it also goes by many different names, among them Pacific Blue Tang, Hippo Tang, Surgeonfish, Doctorfish and Letter Six Fish. Could you imagine having that many different names? You would never know when your teacher was calling you!
  2. Dory has got herself into plenty of scrapes, including being swallowed by a whale and a near miss with a crowd of sharks. But eating Dory or any of her ‘school’ pals would be a bad move. The Regal Blue Tang has a poisonous flesh and eating it could cause fish poisoning called ciguatera.  It isn’t seriously harmful to humans but it will definitely have you feeling icky.
  3. When they are babies the Regal Blue Tangs are not blue at all. They are born yellow with blue spots by their eyes and blue tips on their fins. As they mature they change colour into their adult form –  just like the ones at St Andrews Aquarium, and the film!
  4. Regal Blue Tangs have scalpel-like spines along the top and bottom of their body (ouch!).  These can be used as a means of self-defence against predators. It’s also the reason for one of the Tang’s aliases being Surgeonfish.
  5. Dory has amnesia, and fish in general have a reputation for having a bad memory (hence the phrase ‘a memory like a fish’). In actual fact, a number of scientific studies of fish have proven that this is a myth, and that fish can remember things for four or five months.
  6. The Regal Blue Tang is not always blue. It can adjust its colour shade from light blue to deep purple. Cool, eh? It will often change colour at night and researchers believe that’s because the Tang’s nervous system is less active at night, which will affect its colouring.
  7. The Regal Blue Tang is a sociable fish and they don’t always just hang out with their own kind either. Their schools can include several different species of Surgeonfish and Tang.
  8. When faced with a predator, Regal Blue Tangs often play dead- lying on their side and remaining motionless until the predator passes them by.
  9. The Clownfish – scientific name Amphiprioninae –  is immune to the stings of the sea anemone. It builds up this immunity by doing a sort of dance when it finds one and touches the anemone with all of its different parts of its body. This allows the Clownfish to build up a tolerance to its sting.
  10. For extra protection, the Clownfish has a layer of mucus around it. Eeeewww!
  11. Clownfish eat the parasites and clean the sea anemones and in return the sea anemone provides food scraps and helps protect them from other fish.
  12. All Clownfish are born males and have the ability to switch their sex and become the dominant female of the group. This change is irreversible. When the dominant female dies, the dominant male will then become the dominant female.
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