In the film, Dory is a forgetful-and-overly-friendly blue tang fish, voiced by Ellen DeGeneres. Dory spends her days swimming around Australia’s Great Barrier Reef with her friends Nemo and Marlin, enjoying life under the sea. Until one day she begins to have vivid flashbacks of her long-lost parents.
Distressed by her newly emerging memories, a determined Dory embarks on a mission to find them. On the world’s largest reef (and beyond) with over 140 species of fish and 83 species of coral, she soon finds that this is no easy feat. Luckily, help is at hand.
Here we take an in-depth look at some of the fascinating marine animals that feature in the film and where off Australia’s coasts you’ll find them...
Blue tang (aka Dory)
As mentioned, Dory is a ‘regal’ blue tang which is a species of Indo-Pacific surgeonfish. With very distinctive colours, blue tangs are usually not too hard to spot. Look for a vibrant electric blue body with bold black markings and a yellow tail. They also live in pairs, or in a small groups. Though sadly, this isn’t the case for Dory, at the beginning of the film anyway…
Where can I find Dory?
Blue tangs are commonly found on the reefs of the Pacific Ocean, and of course, on the Great Barrier Reef. So you’re best bet of finding Dory is by donning your mask and snorkel, and heading out on a reef boat trip.
Clownfish (aka Nemo and Marlin)
Little Nemo and his dad, Marlin, are anemonefish, more commonly known as clownfish. Amazingly, there are roughly 30 different species of anemonefish with various colourings. Most are yellow, orange, or a reddish or blackish colour, and many show white bars or patches. Nemo and his dad fall into this latter group.
However, as recognisable as these colourful reef-dwellers are, they can be quite elusive. Not only are they small in size - the largest can reach a length of 18 centimetres, while the smallest barely hits 10 centimetres - they also live amongst the tentacles of sea anemone.
Where can I find clownfish?
Native to the warmer waters of the Indian and Pacific oceans, one place we know you’ll see clownfish for sure is on the Great Barrier Reef. These shy little fish inhabit the shallow waters of sheltered reefs or lagoons. However, given their tendency to hide in their anemone homes, it’s best to search for these first. But remember, first rule of the reef – no touching!
Your dive or snorkel instructor may also be able to help. If they know a specific part of the reef well, they're likely to know if there’s a family of clownfish in the area. It’s worth asking!
Whale shark (aka Destiny)
In the film, Dory teams up with Destiny - a short sighted, and consequently, very clumsy whale shark. In reality, whale sharks are extremely graceful, gentle giants that glide around the warm tropical waters of Western Australia. Most importantly, they do not eat people. Instead, their meal of choice is plankton. They are however, absolutely huge. Reaching lengths of 12 metres (that’s roughly the size of a bus!), seeing a whale shark in the flesh is an incredible experience.
Where can I find whale sharks?
If you want to see one (or two) for yourself, head to Australia’s west coast. Peak time to see these massive fish are in Australia’s spring months of September, October and November. This is when they are known to migrate to the central west coast for the coral spawning on Ningaloo Reef where they feast on the abundant supply of plankton. Again, don’t fret - they do not eat humans.
Turtle (aka Crush and Squirt)
Crush is the chilled out turtle with a surfer dude persona, and Squirt is his spritely little son. Both are green turtles; an animal that regularly features high on people’s must-see lists when they visit the Great Barrier Reef.
If you're above water, you'll need to look for their little head poking out of the water as they come up for air. Under the surface however, their greenish, brown shell can reach sizes of up to 1.5 metres at full maturity, so they’re quite hard to miss! Though quite timid creatures, if you keep sharp movements to a minimum, they allow you to swim right up next to them.
Where can I find green turtles?
Green turtles are found along the entire tropical coastline of Australia. They’re also the most common of the six species of marine turtle found on the Great Barrier Reef. Many of the South Pacific islands along the Great Barrier Reef make for ideal nesting and feeding grounds. In particular, Heron Island and Raine Island are major nesting sites and from November to January is turtle hatching season where you can see the baby turtles scurrying to the water's edge.
Nothing beats seeing all these amazing marine animals in their natural habitat. However, if your kids, or grandkids, are begging to see Finding Dory, there are definitely worse animated films out there. Plus now you’ll be able to impress them with your knowledge of their favourite characters and tell them about this wondrous place called the Great Barrier Reef where they all live.
Enjoy the film!