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LJ Idol Week 39: Gambler's Fallacy

LJ Idol Week 39: Gambler's Fallacy

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Me 2015
Nemo rushed out from under the ledge of a piece of coral, his stunted fin flickering wildly. "Dory!" he cried. "You made it!"

The blue fish stared at him blankly for a second, spun around in a circle, and then scooped him up in a big hug. "Nemo! I made it!" She paused. "Made what?"

He grinned at her. His friend was notoriously forgetful, and he'd grown to adulthood dealing with her lapses. As he opened his mouth to speak, another clownfish slipped out from under the coral and snuggled beside him. "Dory, you remember my mate, of course?"

Dory nodded emphatically, "Yes, yes, of course. Lovely to see you, uh-"

"Caroline," Nemo prompted.

"Caroline," Dory repeated.

"Hi, Dory. Glad you made it. It's nearly time!" Caroline wiggled her black-tipped fins, and darted away, back under the table coral.

"Come and see," Nemo urged Dory, leading the way. They carefully skirted past the anemone where Caroline and Nemo lived; the orange clownfish were immune to its sting, but the regal blue tang could easily become a victim. Behind it, in a shallow depression underneath the safety of the coral's spreading branches, lay a thousand tiny eggs, grey and pearlescent. Within the eggs, tiny forms shifted, with eyes clearly visible.

Dory stared, her mouth agape. "Wow, Nemo. They grew."

"They sure did!"

An egg twitched. All three fish watched in wonder. Another egg twitched, and another.

In the expectant silence, the fishes' thoughts turned, as often happens in times of imminent new life, to those lives that had been and gone. Nemo leaned against Caroline. "I wish Dad could have been here." She slipped a fin over his back, and Dory did the same.

"Marlin would be so proud," said Dory. His passing of old age, frail and weak, was seared upon her memory, as was the knowledge that she would probably outlive Nemo, the coming brood, and even the next generation of clownfish.

They waited, wrapped in shared memories, hope and excitement. More eggs twitched, the movements inside becoming more emphatic, and the three fish inched closer to watch. Suddenly an egg split, and a tiny clownfish larva burst out. It was translucent and fragile, but Dory squinted closely at it, then flung her fins wide. "It's a boy!"

Another egg split. "It's a boy!"

Another, and another. "It's a boy! It's a boy! Boy oh boy, it's a boy!" She swam in excited circles. "A boy! And a boy! And another boy!"

Dory swam around and around the clutch as more eggs hatched. "A boy! It's a boy!" She stopped and thought for a moment, then pointed at a wriggling egg as it split. "...surely this one will be a girl?" The tiny fish wriggled out and Dory looped the loop in joy. "It's a boy!"

She stopped and pointed again. "Must be time for a gi- it's a boy! Whee!"

As more and more eggs hatched, Dory swam around in a state of agitated confusion, finally coming to a halt in front of Nemo and Caroline, who valiantly tried to repress their giggles. "Surely you should have a girl by now? Ooh, another boy!" She darted away in glee, trying to shepherd the larvae into a group.

"Dory!" Nemo called. "DORY!"

The blue fish halted, and looked back at him. "What?"

"They're all boys!"

"I know! Isn't that strange? So this one should be a girl- it's a boy! Wahoo!"

"No, Dory! All clownfish babies are boys!"

Dory blinked at him in confusion. "What do you mean, all clownfish babies are boys? That makes no sense." She peered accusingly at Caroline. "Are you a boy?"

Caroline grinned. "I used to be."

Dory's jaw dropped. "Wha-? How... how does that work?"

Caroline shrugged. "When there's no females around, we just... change. The biggest male becomes a female."

Dory squinted at Caroline with the dubious expression of someone who has been tricked many times before.

"It's true!" Caroline added.

Dory looked at Nemo. He nodded in agreement, and she looked back at Caroline with slightly less scepticism. "You really used to be a male?"

Caroline nodded. "I've had babies before, but I didn't lay the eggs. My mate-" she broke off, and took a moment to compose herself. "She got taken by a barracuda, and with her gone, I became a female."

Dory listened, her eyes wide with fascination. "Those awful barracuda. That's just what happened to Marlin! Coral got taken, and... wait. You're playing tricks on me! Marlin never turned into a female."

Nemo looked sad. "There must have been something terribly wrong with him. He should have turned into a female. I don't know why he didn't."

Dory assessed him, askance, still not quite sure if he was telling the truth. "Really? Marlin was broken? Well, at least he was a great dad. I don't think he'd have been any better as a mum."

Nemo glanced aside. "Actually, he'd, um, she'd, um. Have been my mate."

Dory blinked. "Your what?"

He cleared his throat. "My mate. Except he didn't turn, and we don't know why, and it's rather embarrassing that he didn't."

"That's incredible! I wish I'd known that before! Why didn't you tell me?"

In unison, Nemo and Caroline answered "We did". Dory didn't hear them; she'd already darted back to the thinning cloud of larvae and was ducking and spinning, greeting each one with a startled exclamation of "It's a boy!"

Oblivious, the larvae drifted upwards, towards the light of a waxing gibbous moon. Nemo and Caroline watched them go, content in the knowledge that tides and currents would drift them through the ocean, to reefs their parents would never see.

That was how it was supposed to be.
  • I love this! The message in the story is very nicely done. Shame Nemo is copywrited, this would make a lovely children's book.
  • The description in this piece is true, and much more accurate than a certain movie. Clownfish really do all start life as male, and the dominant male becomes female when the situation becomes vacant. It's called "protandry". (Wrasse all start life as female, "protogyny", and some become male, but they can go back from male to female if all the females disappear. Life is amazing in its variety and complexity.)

    Aside from the six or seven days that the male clownfish spends fanning the eggs to circulate water around them, there is no parental involvement. The larvae (not fish, yet) spend a week or so drifting in currents, eating plankton, and only a tiny percentage will survive to reach another reef to mature into adults. Clownfish lay their eggs at a full moon, and it is believed that the light of the gibbous moon helps guide the larvae to the surface.

    Regal blue tangs live 20 years, and clownfish for less than six. I got really sad about Dory and Marlin when I found that out :(

    I would totally watch a Disney movie that involved a parental sex change. Not so sure about the incest, but it is fish we are talking about.
    • I would actually pay good money to a theater to see that also!

      That is sad about Dory and Marlin.

      Sooo..children's book? ( wink wink, nudge nudge)
  • That's just lovely. And I learned something. And I loved the movie, too.
  • Hahaha! I simply don't know what to make of this! Is it fanfiction? I have to admit I've not seen this film....but the names are iconic, so I recognized that aspect. You had me "ew-ing" with the thought of fish incest....but I guess I learned something about clownfish! :)
    • I guess technically it is fan fiction? I didn't sit down to write that, though, it came about as a flow of thought from gambler's fallacy to people who keep having kids because they're trying for a boy (or a girl), to hey, don't clownfish only have boys?

      I tried to make sure that those outrageous freaks (heehee) who haven't seen the movie had enough background to understand.
  • i didn't know any of that about clownfish. neat! your dory voice is really good too. very cute.

    i guess nemo and marlin would be fishcest. ahem.
  • Wow! Really interesting. You captured Dory well :D
  • Another egg split. "It's a boy!"

    It looks like we're going for biologically correct Nemo here...

    Nemo glanced aside. "Actually, he'd, um, she'd, um. Have been my mate."

    Yep. We are.

    I love how you were able to blend the truth about nature with the cartoonishness of the movie in question. You nailed Dory's character, but it works best in Nemo's shame that he didn't mate with his Dad.
    • Hee, thanks. I had a lot of fun writing this!
    • Things I googled that day:

      - "clownfish hermaphrodite reproduction"
      - "clownfish symptoms of old age"
      - "C# delegate out parameter"

      One of these things...
      • That had to set off a red flag somewhere.
      • It's a shame that you didn't manage to fit in the delegate out parameter into the story somewhere ;-)

        Lovely story, AND I learned something! Win-win :-)
  • Well. You learn something new every day!

    I actually read Dory's lines with Ellen DeGeneres' voice, which I would call a mark of quality. :)
  • I saw that scientifically accurate Disney scenes thing that was going around on Facebook a little while ago and got a kick out of the clownfish science there. I liked that Nemo was a touch embarrassed that his dad hadn't, you know, done the proper thing and become his mate. Heh.
  • I never knew this about clownfish or any other type of fish. It's not just the gender-changing, it's that they can both lay eggs and fertilize them, depending upon which phase they're in. Most creatures do not carry the equipment for both. Not that I'm going to research what's up with slugs and snails, to see if that's a different thing!
    • Pretty sure slugs and snails have both sets at the same time, not sequentially. But I've probably done enough googling about hermaphroditism for a while...
  • I loved this! Maybe because I have a 4-year-old who is always asking questions about the natural world.
    • I was thinking my five year olds would be fascinated by this, too. Maybe there is space for a book that talks about these variation. There might be one already, of course.
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