<i>Finding Nemo</i> is supported by science -- which makes it all the more horrifying.

David Wagner, Executive Editor, Community & IT Life

September 19, 2014

5 Min Read

Jack the Ripper Caught: 8 Mysteries Tech Should Solve

Jack the Ripper Caught: 8 Mysteries Tech Should Solve

Jack the Ripper Caught: 8 Mysteries Tech Should Solve (Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

As a parent of two Pixar-loving children, I just want to say that Finding Nemo is the worst movie ever. Worst. Ever. Hold the lynching, because the reason I think that happens to be totally scientifically valid in a way that I doubt even the makers of the movie could have ever predicted. This is pretty cool.

Scientists from the University of Exeter, the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, Sultan Qaboos University, and the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique have shown that some baby clownfish actually go through an adventure much like Nemo's, without the dentist office part.

Clownfish, as fans of the movie know, don't like to leave the confines of the coral reef. In fact, they rarely leave the vicinity of the anemones they call home. They provide them with protection as well as a source of food. Clownfish eat the undigested food and sometimes the tentacles of the anemones as well as zooplankton. In turn, the anemones like to eat clownfish droppings. It is a tidy relationship.

Here's the thing, though. If clownfish never left their anemones, their choices for breeding would be limited. They'd start looking like the royal families of Europe -- everyone marrying their cousins to broker land deals. So it has long been predicted that clownfish must "get around" more than we thought, but it wasn't proven until now.

[Why is Grumpy IT Guy extra grumpy? Read The Test System That Wasn't.]

The research team found that baby Nemos sometimes leave the safety of the anemones and travel as far as 250 miles through open ocean to settle in new reefs. They do this when they are less than a week old and less than half an inch in length. The Nemo in the movie is a giant compared to this, and significantly older.

Think about this -- these fish set out and brave ocean currents, predators, pollution and everything else at less than an inch so they can keep the genes of the community nice and fresh. It is very similar to the movie, without Sharks Anonymous.

Why does this matter? Well, for one thing it shows quite a lot about how a diverse coral reef system is essential for species survival. And coral reefs are in serious danger. We lost 16% of the world's coral reefs in one year. The Caribbean (not where Nemo lives) has had it worse, losing 80% in just 50 years due to pollution and development, not to mention global warming and invasive species.

As reefs get more sparse and farther apart, that already dangerous journey from one reef to another becomes more difficult and it threatens the species. And of course, it isn't just clown fish, but the other reef fish, the animals that eat them, and everything else all up and down the food chain.

Even if you don't care about the fish, the world's coral reef systems account for $29.8 billion worldwide in economic benefit. So there's plenty of selfish reason to care as well.

But none of this is as important as the real reason I care about this. It is because I hate Finding Nemo. And now that I know that the dangers that clownfish experience just to maintain genetic diversity are as bad as the movie, I can't stand by anymore.

Finding Nemo is an animated snuff film. It is 100 minutes of televised torture for the enjoyment of children. You might as well animate children tearing wings off butterflies and frying ants with a magnifying glass.

Think about the plot. In the opening seconds, an entire happy family is wiped out. The lone survivors, literally suffering from PTSD, are then required to go through 98 more minutes of horror. In that time they endure captivity, being hunted, minefields, and facing imminent death multiple times. We're supposed to think this is OK, because one of the victims is so brain damaged that she never remembers anything. If all of that isn't enough, they go through a period when they are convinced their loved ones are dead. Good times.

I've heard many people defend this sort of violence by saying Disney always does this. Bambi's parents die. Most Disney princesses lose their parents before the movie even starts. Life is full of death. Don't be overprotective of kids. Sure, but for 100 minutes? Nemo is tortured so he can go back to the very same place his whole family was eaten. This movie is more like Saw or The Hostel than Bambi.

Now that I know Nemo is real, I say let's take this movie off the shelf of "family fare" and put it in the horror section where it belongs. Also, let's take a moment to remember how fragile the ecosystem really is. The farther a little clown fish has to go to mate, the harder it will be for us.

What do you think? Still a fan of Nemo? Tell me why I'm wrong. Do you have more respect for biodiversity? Comment below.

About the Author(s)

David Wagner

Executive Editor, Community & IT Life

David has been writing on business and technology for over 10 years and was most recently Managing Editor at Enterpriseefficiency.com. Before that he was an Assistant Editor at MIT Sloan Management Review, where he covered a wide range of business topics including IT, leadership, and innovation. He has also been a freelance writer for many top consulting firms and academics in the business and technology sectors. Born in Silver Spring, Md., he grew up doodling on the back of used punch cards from the data center his father ran for over 25 years. In his spare time, he loses golf balls (and occasionally puts one in a hole), posts too often on Facebook, and teaches his two kids to take the zombie apocalypse just a little too seriously. 

Never Miss a Beat: Get a snapshot of the issues affecting the IT industry straight to your inbox.

You May Also Like

More Insights