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Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless credited to others.
Copyright ゥ Ecology Asia 2024







Neon Damselfish

Fig 1

Order : Uncertain
Species : Pomacentrus coelestis
Maximum Length : 9 cm

Pomacentrus coelestis is a small, reef-dwelling, perciforme in the family Pomacentridae. It inhabits tropical waters from the eastern Indian Ocean, through the archipelagos of Southeast Asia to the western and central Pacific Ocean. 

The species inhabits calm lagoons, as well as seaward-facing slopes of outer reefs, where seas are somewhat rougher. A study in Australia (Doherty et al, 1996) postulates that habitat selection (lagoons or outer reef slopes) may be based on ambient temperature detected by pelagic juveniles.

The head and body of Pomacentrus coelestis are bright blue, and its anal and tail fins are pale, with the latter often bright yellow.

Its diet comprises zooplankton and benthic algae gleaned from coral rubble.

Eggs are deposited amongst the substrate where they adhere to coral rubble: these are guarded by the male parent, who also keeps them aerated.

A field study in Japan (Ishihara, 1987) documented instances of 'group mobbing' by Pomacentrus coelestis towards potential predators, such as moray eels: nesting males were recorded as making direct physical contact with the perceived threat.  

It is likely that this 'species' comprises a complex of at least two divergent lineages (Liu et al, 2012).

Fig 1 : Typical example of a Neon Damselfish from French Polynesia in the central Pacific Ocean, with bright blue head and body, and yellow tail.

Fig 2 : A group of Neon Damselfish swimming above a shallow, fringing reef at Manado Tua island, near Bunaken Island, Sulawesi, Indonesia.  Photo thanks to Kelvin Lim.

Fig 3 : The shallow, crystal clear, turquoise waters fringing Manado Tua and Bunaken Island, with the main island of Sulawesi on the horizon.

References : F3

Doherty, P., Kingsford, M., Booth, D. & Carleton, J. (1996). Habitat selection before settlement by Pomacentrus coelestis. Marine and Freshwater Research, 47(2), 391-399.

Ishihara, M. (1987). Effect of mobbing toward predators by the damselfish Pomacentrus coelestis (Pisces: Pomacentridae). Journal of Ethology, 5(1), 43-52.

Liu, S. Y. V., Dai, C. F., Allen, G. R. & Erdmann, M. V. (2012). Phylogeography of the neon damselfish Pomacentrus coelestis indicates a cryptic species and different species origins in the West Pacific Ocean. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 458, 155-167.

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Fig 2

ゥ Kelvin Lim

Fig 3