Anemonefishes can be remarkably variable in their appearance, not just across species, but within them as well. The shape of their markings can often differ quite prominently among individuals, which is exemplified beautifully by this nearly naked Blackfoot Anemonefish (A. nigripes).
This species is a common sight on coral reefs of the Maldives and Sri Lanka, and it tends to have a very consistent appearance. But this individual clearly didn’t get the memo, as it has just the faintest trace of what would normally be a fairly robust white stripe behind the head.
I’ve placed this species as a member of the widespread perideraion group, better known as “Skunk Clownfishes” in the aquarium trade. The similarities are obvious, but, surprisingly, I’ve never seen this pointed out elsewhere. They share the same host anemone species (Heteractis magnifica), they live in the one part of the Indo-Pacific where we don’t find any of the striped skunk species, they’re roughly the same size and they have the same overall patterning, save for the lack of a dorsal stripe in this fish.
When you see a specimen like this one, which was photographed in the Maldives, it really highlights just how skunk-like this fish is when compared with the other species present in the Indian Ocean, the African Skunk Anemonefish (A. cf akallopisos) and the Andaman Skunk Anemonefish (A. akallopisos). All that’s needed is for someone to draw a white dorsal stripe on this fish…