The orange clownfish -- a species known to millions thanks to the film "Finding Nemo" -- may soon join the list of endangered species as its coral reef homes continue to be hammered by ongoing climate change, U.S. officials announced.

The National Marine Fisheries Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say they're seeking comment from the public on a proposal to place the orange-and-white striped fish, along with seven other reef fish species, on the list that would grant them the highest level of protections.

Orange clownfish live in a symbiotic relationship with certain kinds of sea anemones, a mutually beneficial bond that sees the fish protected amongst the anemones' stinging tentacles while they clean the anemones and help them breathe.

Although they will spend almost their whole lives living with their host, new research has found baby clownfish, before settling down, will travel for hundreds of miles across open ocean in search of a new home.

Soon after hatching from eggs, the tiny fish will leave in search of an anemone they will call their own, gradually becoming immune to the anemone's toxic sting that can kill other kinds of fish as they take up residence.

An international team of researchers reports they found some tiny baby clownfish travelling as far as 250 miles from one reef population to another.

"This is an epic journey for these tiny week-old fish," says marine biologist Steve Simpson from the University of Exeter in England. "When they arrive at the reef, they are less than a centimeter long, and only a few days old, so to travel hundreds of kilometers they must be riding ocean currents to assist their migration."

The researchers tracked baby clownfish moving across the Gulf of Oman, a branch of the Persian Gulf off the Arabian Peninsula.

"There are only two coral reef systems along this coast, and they are separated by 400 km (248 miles) of surf beaches," Simpson says. "In order to persist as a single species, we know Omani clownfish fish must occasionally migrate between these two populations."

Marine conservationists worry about the future of the clownfish, as the coral reefs that are home to both the fish and their anemone hosts become increasingly fragile as a result of the warming and acidification of the oceans.

There is also concern that that the number of orange clownfish taken for the aquarium trade -- a number that rose dramatically with the success of the "Finding Nemo" movie -- is putting pressure on populations of the colorful fish.

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