16 June 2016

QBI researchers believe Dory, the surgeonfish made famous by Pixar’s Finding Nemo and Finding Dory, may hold clues as to how fish adapt to changes in their environment.

QBI researchers believe Dory, the surgeonfish made famous by Pixar’s Finding Nemo and Finding Dory, may hold clues as to how fish adapt to changes in their environment.

QBI researchers believe that studying Dory—the surgeonfish—may hold clues as to how fish adapt to changes in their environment.


Researchers at the Queensland Brain Institute believe the surgeonfish made famous by Pixar’s Finding Nemo and Finding Dory movies may hold clues to how fish adapt to changes in their environment.

Dr Fabio Cortesi from QBI's Sensory Neurobiology Group at the has returned from a fieldwork trip to Lizard Island off the Far North Queensland coast.

His team collected samples to study the genes that enable Dory and her surgeonfish cousins to see their world.

“Let’s face it, surgeonfish are mostly famous for being forgetful cartoon characters who sound remarkably like Ellen DeGeneres,” Dr Cortesi said.

“But they are so much more – fascinating, complex reef fish living in one of the most colourful and diverse habitats on the planet.

“Studying the way surgeonfish visualise and perceive their world is key to understanding how they find their friends, avoid their foes and adapt to changes in their environment,” Dr Cortesi said.

Unprecedented study of fish vision

The team will use the latest molecular sequencing techniques to provide one of the most extensive analyses on the evolution of vision in any marine fish family to date.

They hope the results will also shed light on possible surgeonfish migrations during major environmental disturbances, such as the current mass coral bleaching affecting coral reefs world-wide.

“To protect our environment and its inhabitants in an adequate and efficient manner, we need to acquire as much knowledge as possible about how it works,” Dr Cortesi said.

“Ultimately, understanding how and why important fish families such as surgeon fishes change and adapt is central to how we manage coral reefs in the future, because if we don’t start to take action now there will be no coral reefs left for future generations to enjoy.”

The research is partially funded by a Sea World Research and Rescue Foundation Inc grant.

Media: QBI Executive Communications Manager Kirsten MacGregor, k.macgregor@uq.edu.au, 0448 108 441.