Almost a decade has gone by since I first heard about sightings of a "White Cap Orange Skunk Clown". On many collection trips to the Indo-Pacific region, I tried my best to dive areas where their supposed sightings happened. Still, I never did get to see one.
I was almost convinced that the White Cap Skunk was in fact a Thiellei that my regular collectors misidentified as a "new type of orange skunk". Not wanting to offend or discourage my collectors from letting me in on other variant finds, we pressed on.
Every now and then, word of sighting a White Cap Skunk would surface. This went on for many years and many dive/collect trips.
This year, on a collection trip to Madagascar, I was fortunate to have collected several Madagascar Anemonefish (A. Latifasciatus) without any hitches. Left with 11 spare days, I made a decision to head for the Indo-Pacific to look for some A. Thiellei. 4 days and multiple dives later, my Indo-Pacific counterpart informed me that the elusive White Cap Orange Skunk had been sighted by a villager who frequently free dives those remotest of island chains in that region. He had spotted a single specimen. To be sure, I had to see this.
The old villager took us to the site where he had spotted the White Cap. Fortunately, Clownfish in the wild generally do not venture further than 3 to 4 feet from their host anemone, A. Clarkii being the rare exception. They have been known to venture as much as 8 feet from their host anemones. To get the advantage of less noise intrusion into the undersea world, plus longer dive times, I use a rebreather instead of regular scuba tanks.
I was amazed that without so much as a GPS the old villager was able to point us to the exact location of the White Cap Skunk. Just seconds after descending to a depth of about 24 feet, I was able to spot the White Cap Orange Skunk Clownfish. This was no "unicorn" fish. It was completely real. What a find! Just a little shy of 2 inches, it swam into my perforated plastic bottle. Dive over, I set my GPS for a soon second trip. The old villager had more good news - he hand signaled that he had seen 3 more by a smaller island chain. More?
I have made arranges with friends in Europe who are experts at sequencing DNA to sequence the DNA of this White Cap Orange Skunk against that of A. ocellaris, A. Thiellei, A. periderion, and A. sandaracinos so that we can definitively know if in fact the White Cap Orange Skunk is a new species of Amphiprion, or a hybrid of one of the above mentioned Amphiprions. No disappointments either way. It would be very nice to know. ------------------------------------------------