If you SCUBA dive, or just enjoy strolling along a rocky coastline, you may have seen this creature. If you are a gardener, there’s a plant by the same name that blooms in the Fall.
Both of these are called anemones. The ones that live at the Aquarium are the “sea faring” kind but, coincidentally, they do resemble flowers. They are all different colors with their tentacles (use your imagination) somewhat resembling petals. As pretty as they are, they can be dangerous. Sea anemone tentacles have nematocysts, or stinging cells, on the ends that protect the anemone from predators and also catch its food.
While it basically has no enemies, the anemone has a “friend” in the clownfish. Together, they have a symbiotic relationship; they provide a benefit for one another. The clownfish cleans leftover fish and algae from the anemone while the “ocean flower” provides a safe haven between its tentacles for the fish. The clownfish is the only fish that does not get stung by the anemone. It also helps that it is covered with a slimy mucus covering that prevents the anemone from stinging it.
An invertebrate, the sea anemone has no skeleton. Like people, they come in many shapes and sizes. They have a column-like soft body with one opening, a mouth surrounded by those tentacles. An anemone is usually one to four inches across,
but some can grow to be six feet across. There are over a thousand species found in coastal waters around the world, in tide pools and in deep oceans. They live attached to the sea floor, rock or coral. At the Aquarium, they sometimes attach themselves to the exhibit’s glass front.
Some of our anemones have flowerlike names: Powderpuff, Plumnose, Dahlia, Bulb tip and Pacific green. Sea anemones are carnivores. They eat fish, mussels, zooplankton, small crustaceans, tiny marine larvae and worms.
Sea anemones reproduce by lateral fission where an identical animal sprouts out of its side and by sexual reproduction in which eggs and sperm are released, resulting in swimming larvae.
Stop by the Aquarium one of these cold days and be warmed by our colorful “ocean garden” of anemones.