The brilliant colors of coral reef fish have received much research attention. This is well exemplified by anemonefish, which have distinct white bar patterns and inhabit host anemones and defend them as a territory. The 28 described species have between 0 and 3 white bars present, which has been suggested to be important for species recognition. In the present study, we found that Amphiprion ocellaris (a species that displays three white bars) hatched and reared in aquaria, when faced with an intruder fish, attacked their own species more frequently than other species of intruding anemonefish. Additionally, we explicitly tested whether this species could distinguish models with different numbers of bars. For this, 120 individuals of A. ocellaris were presented with four different models (no bars, and 1, 2 and 3 bars) and we compared whether the frequency of aggressive behavior towards the model differed according to the number of bars. The frequency of aggressive behavior toward the 3-bar model was the same as against living A. ocellaris, and was higher than towards any of the other models. We conclude that A. ocellaris use the number of white bars as a cue to identify and attack only competitors that might use the same host. We considered this as an important behavior for efficient host defense.

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