Saddleback Clownfish with a funny lump

Over Easter, I was teaching an Open Water dive course on our house reef at Lissenung Island,  Kavieng, Papua New Guinea. On one of the dives, we swam past a sand anemone with a residing saddleback clownfish family. I had noticed the clownfish before, as the biggest one has a slightly unusual colour. This time, this particular clownfish had some unusual spots on his back, near the spine. I had a closer look at those, then noticed that the fish also had a lump over his left eye. I didn't have my camera with me, so a few days later, once I had completed the dive course and had time, I jumped back in to take the following pictures. Luckily, the fish lives just off our beach!

                           8 April 2010, growth over left eye, with the eye pushed down and out slightly.

I had no idea what this growth could be, so I asked our friend Alison Green, who is a senior marine scientist with The Nature Conservancy. Alison is incredibly knowledgeable on fish species, but even she wasn't sure what the little fella suffered from, so Dr Lexa Grutter, Coral Reef Ecologist at the School of Biological Science at the University of Queensland, joined us in our quest to find out what had caused the lump. Without doing a biopsy, though, it's almost impossible to work out what the problem is, so Lexa suggested that I catalogue the various stages of the growth and how the fish copes. At one stage, some of Lexa's colleagues, who had also been called in to provide their opinions, gave a rather sad prognosis, but Alison, Lexa and I are still hoping that the fish would eventually recover. Ali is also the one that convinced me to write a blog, so thanks Ali!

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