One of the pleasures of scuba diving is watching the behavior of the animals in our fascinating underwater world. Caring for offspring is one of the most interesting activities under the sea. While some animals die after they reproduce, others are doting parents. Some animals work as partners, some as single parents, and others don’t acknowledge their young at all, even seeing them as food. I have been lucky enough to observe anemone fish caring for their eggs on multiple occasions.
Anemone fish such as the clown fish work in pairs to take care of their eggs. The female observes the male’s efforts, and if he isn’t carrying his load, she will chase him away. The fish will swim back and forth over the eggs aerating them with their fins, and blowing water over them with their mouths.
The fish will also swim over the eggs and hold each egg briefly in its mouth. It appears to be “kissing” each baby.
On my last trip to the Philippines, I was astonished to learn that anemone fish aren’t the only ones who care for their eggs in this manner. My dive guide found this yellow damsel fish guarding its nest on the back of a large leaf coral.
As I watched, this fish also took the eggs in its mouth as if kissing each one.
Now of course, the fish are acting instinctively and probably merely keeping the eggs free of parasites and debris, but no one can argue the tenacity of these animals when it comes to caring for their unhatched babies.
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