Amphiprion pacificus

Common Name: Polynesian Skunk Anemonefish

Scientific Name: Amphiprion pacificus Allen Drew & Fenner, 2010

Distribution: Westernmost Polynesia, including Samoa, American Samoa, Wallis & Futuna, Tonga and Fiji (Vanua Levu). Likely present at Tuvalu, Tokelau and possibly Niue.

Type Locality: Ile Uvea, Wallis Island, Wallis & Futuna

Identification: Body bright yellow along belly, fading into a dingy beige-peach color dorsally. A thin, white stripe extends from just above the upper lip to the base of the caudal fin. The dorsal and caudal fins are translucent white in females; occasional specimens have these more yellowed. Pectoral and ventral fins bright yellow.

Similar: Seemingly identical in appearance to the Indian Ocean A. akallopisos and A. cf akallopisos, but is separated by a large biogeographical gap and morphologically by a lower number of gill rakers (modally, 17 vs. 18-19).

Notes: This is the most recently described addition to Amphiprion, first recognized in 2010. It’s unique distribution in the western edge of Polynesia is uncommon among reef fishes, best exemplified among the Foxface Rabbitfishes (Siganus niger), Fangblennies (Meiacanthus atrodrosalis group) and perhaps the melanopus group of anemonefishes.

The scientific description for this species failed to compare it with its closest relative A. perideraion and A. cf perideraion from Fiji and Micronesia, suggesting instead a sister relationship with the very distinct A. sandaracinos. However, these two fishes differ greatly in their biogeography, host selection and morphology. In particular, the use of the Magnificent Carpet Anemone (Heteractis magnificus) firmly places A. pacificus as the easternmost member of the perideraion group. There is also a large gap separating the nearest population of A. sandaracinos at the Solomon Islands from the nearest population of A. pacificus at Wallis Island, providing a strong biogeographical argument against these two being close relatives. More study is needed to better understand this anomalous genetic data, but genetic introgression caused by hybridization between the various Pacific skunk anemonefish taxa seems a likely explanation. Likely hybrids of A. pacificus and A. perideraion are known from Labasa, Fiji where the two species are overlap.

Aquarium specimens of this species are quite rare and sporadic, but have appeared from Tonga (where it occurs alongside the Fijian A. cf perideraion) and twice from the Fijian island of Vanua Levu, near the town of Labasa.