9 'Finding Nemo' plot points that are scientifically accurate

Disney / Pixar‘Finding Nemo’ has some accurate science facts baked in.
  • “Finding Nemo” came out in 2003 and was beloved for its storyline and (somewhat) accurate depiction of life in the ocean.
  • Clownfish really do look like that and live in sea anemones.
  • There is a “whale language” though Dory probably can’t speak it.
  • Marlin probably could survive being stung in the forest of jellyfish because of a protective layer of mucus that clownfish have.
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The 2003 Pixar movie “Finding Nemo” struck a chord with audiences for its heartwarming story and (somewhat) accurate depiction of the underwater kingdom.

The movie – which spawned its own hilarious sequel, “Finding Dory”– introduced viewers to a diverse cast of sea creatures based on the real animals of the Great Barrier Reef.

Pixar movies are known for their long production timelines, but how accurate was the portrayal of sea life, especially since the movie’s characters are species living off the coast of Australia?

INSIDER took a look at some of the real-life facts the movie gets right.


Marlin and Nemo are both clownfish. They each have three white stripes outlined in black and look like carbon copies of each other.

Disney / PixarNemo and Marlin are the stars of ‘Finding Nemo.’

There are 30 recognised species of clownfish. Marlin and Nemo are Ocellaris clownfish, a type of orange clownfish that live in sea anemones, just like in the movie.

J’nel/ShutterstockA colourful orange clownfish finds safety in a green and purple anemone.

This type of clownfish is typically 3 to 4 inches long with bright orange colouring and white stripes outlined in black.

Clownfish are covered in a thin layer of mucus, making them immune to the sting of their anemone homes (a habitat, in the definition of a symbiotic relationship, the clownfish cannot survive without). The tiny fish eat the algae off the anemone and provide nutrients through waste, while the anemone provides natural protection for the clownfish against predators with its stinging tentacles.

Clownfish are also considered native to the Great Barrier Reef.


Coral, Nemo’s mother, and Marlin had over 400 baby fish eggs they were protecting in the beginning of the movie.

PixarCoral (left) and Marlin (right) try to name all of the eggs.

Marlin and Coral lay their eggs near the sea anemone they call home. Before a barracuda attack kills Coral and all of their eggs except one, Marlin and Coral joke about naming all of their children.


On average, clownfish can lay up to 1,000 eggs.

Simon Shin kwangsig/ShutterstockA real mother clownfish with her eggs.

On average, clownfish can lay between 100 and 1,000 eggs, according to LiveScience, so Marlin and Coral’s egg number is on the lower side.

That said, clownfish do lay their eggs near their sea anemone or coral habitats in batches, just like in “Finding Nemo.”


Bruce, a great white shark, has several rows of animated teeth in the film.

Disney PixarDory and Marlin running away from Bruce in ‘Finding Nemo.’

Most shark species have several rows of teeth.

Barcroft Media/Getty ImagesThis real great white shark has several rows of teeth.

In the movie, Bruce is a great white shark, which typically has around 300 teeth. Sharks are constantly shedding and growing new teeth.

Bruce’s supposedly fish-tolerant shark friends, Chum and Anchor, are a mako shark and a hammerhead shark, respectively. It’s worth pointing out that most sharks hunt alone, so Chum, Anchor, and Bruce would probably not be hanging out together.


In “Finding Nemo,” Dory becomes fascinated by a glowing light that belongs to an anglerfish.

PixarDory calls the light her ‘squishy.’

Dory becomes fascinated by the light (her “squishy”) and follows it until she realises it’s on the end of the dorsal fin of a very terrifying anglerfish trying to eat her.


The anglerfish’s glowing “lure” has a bewitching effect on fish.

Neil Bromhall/ShutterstockA female anglerfish with two smaller parasitic males attached to her body.

Anglerfish use their signature and natural lure to hook tasty pray into their orbit. The lure is a piece of dorsal spine that hovers above females and appears similar to a fishing hook with a juicy, glowing worm at the end.

The male anglerfish, on the other hand, assumes an appearance quite different than the female. Generally, the male anglerfish is much smaller and goes without the female’s captivating appendage.


Marlin and Dory must swim through a trench in the ocean to get to Sydney, Australia.

PixarThe moonfish mocking Marlin while giving directions through the trench.

Dory and Marlin are told by a school of moonfish to go through the trench to reach Sydney, Australia. They say not to go over because of the jellyfish.


Trenches and canyons are common on the ocean floor.

Damsea/ShutterstockA small canyon underwater carved into the reef.

Trenches, which are steep-sided structures formed by the Earth’s shifting tectonic plates, are very much what they look like in “Finding Nemo”: extremely dark and deep.

These depressions in the oceanic floor can occur as far down as 24,000 feet to 36,000 feet from the water’s surface.

The one Marlin and Dory swam through was likely a submarine canyon, and not quite as deep.


Marlin must get through a sea of jellyfish in the film to save Dory.

PixarMarlin and Dory must make it out of the jellyfish forest.

He makes it through even though he appears to get stung multiple times.


In fact, Marlin was pretty well prepared to take on jellyfish as a clownfish.

Dewald Kirsten/ShutterstockJellyfish are in the same category as sea anemones.

The sting of a jellyfish can be deadly – but maybe not for a prepared clownfish.

Jellyfish are in the same phylum as sea anemones, where clownfish make their home. Both jellyfish and sea anemones are cnidarians, classified as an organism with an opening with a ring of tentacles surrounding it.

If you want to get technical, jellyfish are in the medusa phase (a free-swimming structure) while anemones are in the polyp phase (an attaching structure).

The layer of mucus on a clownfish that protects them from sea anemones could be what protected Marlin in the movie.


Dory and Marlin meet friendly sea turtles and take the East Australian Current as a sort of underwater highway.

PixarDory with some of the baby turtles travelling the EAC.

Crush the sea turtle tells Marlin and Dory that the EAC will help them reach Sydney faster. In the movie, it looks like a type of warp-speed highway for aquatic life.


The East Australian Current is real and actually travelled by fish in the summer.

Ewais/ShutterstockFish swim in the Great Barrier Reef.

The East Australian Current, or EAC, is a very real thing, according to The Conversation. The current on the east side of the Australian coast that flows in a southward direction from the Great Barrier Reef. EAC transports more than 40 million cubic meters of water each second.

As for fish “riding” the EAC the way they do in the movie, some scientists say they have seen tropical fish “hitching a ride” on the current, though it is not quite as fast as it appears in the movie.


Dory speaks whale in “Finding Nemo.”

PixarMarlin doesn’t believe that Dory can actually speak whale.

In one of the most famous scenes from the movie, Dory says she is able to speak whale, oscillating her tones to mimic a whale’s sonar.


Whales and fish do communicate by speaking their own language, of sorts. (Though Dory’s version is definitely played up for laughs.)

NOAAA blue whale in real life.

A (somewhat) accurate fact, whales communicate by using sonar waves, which is part of their echolocation abilities, or using distinct sounds to discern surroundings. Sperm whales, one study says, could have their own language that varies by each clan.

Fish also communicate through specific sounds, most commonly fish and invertebrates communicate via clicks and rhythmic noises – including grunts, croaks, and snaps.


Scuba divers like Dr. Sherman who capture marine life for sport are doing a disservice to these habitats.

PixarDr. Sherman, a dentist, captures Nemo for sport in ‘Finding Nemo.’

Poaching, which is different than mere recreational diving, can be a scourge to marine life, especially in the endangered Great Barrier Reef.

Like the Aussie dentist, Dr. Sherman, poachers and divers who usurp marine life for their own purposes can severely damage the thriving ecosystem that is the Reef, notably by bringing in foreign influences and disturbing the natural state of the environment.

Just like Dr. Sherman didn’t realise he was separating Marlin and Nemo, humans may not realise we’re damaging aquatic wildlife.

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