For now, I’d like to focus on one of the few members of this group which has previously been scientifically described—Amphiprion snyderi. This name dates back to 1904 and was given to specimens collected at the Ogasawara (Bonin) Islands. This small archipelago, situated at a biogeographic crossroads between the Japanese and Micronesian fauna, is noted for its high level of endemism, with the most noteworthy example being Genicanthus takeuchii.
Since its description more than a century ago, taxonomists have favored synonymizing A. snyderi, treating it as nothing more than a dark morph of a widespread Amphiprion clarkii. But there is a critical difference with this one population… there is NEVER a light morph at the Ogasawara Islands. Even when this fish hosts in the Bubbletip Anemone Entacmaea quadricolor—a species which, in other parts of its range, is not known to induce melanism—we still find fully black specimens. This would have been impossible for earlier workers to have known, and, in all likelihood, there is probably little, if any, morphological difference to be found between the various members of this species complex other than their coloration.
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But this distinction is important to make, as it provides strong evidence that the Ogasawara population is unique, and, in all likelihood, so are all of the others that we currently lump into Amphiprion clarkii. The same can be said for other widespread clownfishes, such as A. chrysopterus, A. melanopus and A. akallopisos, and, undoubtedly, we will eventually see significant changes to the taxonomy of this genus when we at last begin investigating the group’s population genetics. For fans of rare clownfishes, don’t expect to ever find the Ogasawara Black Anemonefish available in aquarium stores. Since it occurs only in the waters of this one small archipelago, which, as a UNESCO Natural Heritage Site, is fully protected from aquarium collection, this species is likely destined to remain a “book fish” for the foreseeable future, and, rightfully so, as this is surely one of the rarest clownfishes in the world.