BLUE TANG AS REEF FILM STAR
Last summer, the big motion picture sensation for the bird world was, of course, Pixar’s ineffably adorable creation, Piper – the ultimate ‘Chick Flick’. This little ball of cartoon fluff was not, as some thought, based on a piping plover but on a sanderling – a type of sandpiper (clue in name). This 6 minute ‘short’ preceded the main event, the hugely popular Finding Dory. You can read all about the film Piper and the birding aspects of the film HERE.
Finding Dory is not about a fish of the dory species, of course. Voiced by Ellen DeGeneres, Dory is in fact a species of surgeonfish Paracanthurus, the familiar blue tang found on the reefs of the Bahamas. To see these fish in Abaco waters, Fowl Cays National Park is always a good bet.
Dory can be identified as a maturing juvenile: blue, with a yellow tail. In due course – in time for the sequel film – she will become blue all over, with perhaps the odd flash of yellow (see photos above).
In real life, a baby blue tang is in fact entirely yellow, except for blue rings around the eyes. In Pixarland, however, Dory is just an adorbs miniature version of her youthful self.
Blue Tang are lovely to watch as they cruise round the reefs, sometimes in large groups. Their colouring ranges from pale to dark blue. However, these are fish that are best looked at and not touched – their caudal spines are very sharp. When the fish feels in threatened, the spine is raised and can cause deep cuts, with a risk of infection.
Still from a crummy video taken at Fowl Cays some years back to illustrate a group of blue tang
Blue tangs are inedible, they apparently smell unpleasant, and they can cause ciguatera. However they are popular in the aquarium trade. This is a distinct downside of highly successful films such as Finding Nemo and Finding Dory. In defiance of the well-meant and broadly ecological message of both films, the trade in clown fish and to a lesser extent blue tang was boosted by their on-screen portrayal as adorbs creatures desirable for the entertainment of mankind… ‘Nuff said.
Credits: All excellent photos by Melinda Riger / Grand Bahama Scuba; one pathetically bad still from a low res video, me; cartoons purloined from an online aquarium somewhere or other