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Family Taxonomy

The Damselfish family Pomacentridae is the third largest fish family in Australia after the Gobiidae and Labridae.

Family Distribution

The family is represented in all tropical and warm temperate seas.

Most species live on tropical coral reefs, although the monotypic Mecaenichthys and most members of the genus Parma are found on rocky reefs in southern Australia. At least one species enters freshwater.

Most damselfishes seek refuge among coral branches when threatened and at night.

Family Description

Small, laterally compressed fishes with an ovate to fusiform body shape.

Family Size

Damselfishes grow to a maximum length of about 15 cm, and most are usually less than 8 cm.

Family Feeding

Damselfishes have a variety of feeding modes. Most species feed on either small invertebrates or benthic algae, or frequently a combination of these items.

Others have very specialised feeding habits, for example Cheiloprion and Plectroglyphidodon, which consume coral polyps and most Chromis species feed on zooplankton.

Family Commercial

Because of their small size the group is of little commercial importance, although some of the colourful species such as the anemone fishes  (Amphiprion) are sold in the aquarium trade.

Author

Dianne J. Bray

References


Allen, G.R. (1972). Anemonefishes, their Classification and Biology.  New Jersey : T.F.H. Publications 288 pp. 140 figs

Allen, G.R. (1975). Anemonefishes, their Classification and Biology.  Neptune City, New Jersey : T.F.H. Publications 2nd Edn  351 pp.

Allen, G.R. (1975). Damselfishes of the South Seas.  New Jersey : T.F.H. Publications 237 pp. 251 figs

Allen, G.R. (1991). Damselfishes of the World. Melle, Germany : Mergus Verlag 271 pp.

Allen, G.R. & Emery, A.R. (1985). A review of the pomacentrid fishes of the genus Stegastes from the Indo-west Pacific with descriptions of two new species. Indo-Pacific Fishes 3: 1–31 figs 1–5 pls 1–3

Allen, G.R. & Hoese, D.F. (1975). A review of the pomacentrid fish genus Parma, with descriptions of two new species. Rec. West. Aust. Mus. 3(4): 261–294 figs 1–18

Cooper, W.J. & M.W. Westneat. 2009. Form and function of damselfish skulls: rapid and repeated evolution into a limited number of trophic niches. BMC Evolutionary Biology 9:24.

Cooper, W.J., Smith, L.L. & M.W. Westneat. 2009. Exploring the radiation of a diverse reef fish family: Phylogenetics of the damselfishes (Pomacentridae), with new classifications based on molecular analyses of all genera. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 52: 1-16.

Fautin, D.G. & Allen, G.R. (1992). Field Guide to Anemonefishes and their Host Sea Anemonies. Perth : Western Australian Museum 160 pp.

Randall, H.A. & Allen, G.R. (1977). A revision of the damselfish genus Dascyllus Pomacentridae) with the description of a new species. Rec. Aust. Mus. 31(9): 349–385 figs 1–11

Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & Steene, R. (1997). Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea.  Bathurst : Crawford House Press 2nd Edn  557 pp. figs.

Santini, S. & G. Polacco. 2006. Finding Nemo: Molecular phylogeny and evolution of the unusual life style of anemonefish. Gene 385: 19–27.