They Look Like Flowers!

Sea anemones may look like flowers but that are actually predatory animals. There are over 1000 species found worldwide in coastal waters in various sizes, shapes, and colors. They attach themselves to firm objects, primarily rocks at Haystack, and have a column-like body which is symmetric along the radial axis.  The anemone does not have a skeleton and can flatten or extend its body by changing its internal water pressure.

The Giant Green Anemone (Anthopleura xanthogrammica) is a common find in the tidepools of Haystack Rock. The green color comes from a symbiotic algae that lives in the tissue of the anemone.

Giant Green Anemone in the Tide Pool
Photo Courtesy of Jeff Lemelin

The anemones mouth, surrounded by tentacles, is the single body opening. The tentacles have poison stingers, called nematocysts, that are used to catch food. The anemones are carnivores, typically feasting on fish, mussels, small crustaceans, worms and marine larvae. Even though the tentacles have poisonous stingers, they only feel a little sticky if you touch them since the skin is too thick to allow penetration of the poison. While the anemones eat a variety of animals, they have very few predators.

The Moonglow Anemone (Anthopleura artemisia) is also found at Haystack Rock. The tentacles have distinctive white bands that often have a luminous quality which is where the species gets its name 'moonglow'. This anemone is usually found in sandy areas where it is attached to a rock.

Moonglow Anemone in a sandy tidepool

Anemones can reproduce sexually or asexually. During asexual reproduction, called lateral fission, an identical animal sprouts from the side of the parent anemone, growing until it can survive on its own. In sexual reproduction, the anemones release eggs and sperm into the water which produces free-swimming larvae.

Sexual Reproduction - Moonglow Anemone

Right - Sexually reproducing Moonglow Anemone
Left - Bleached Aggregating Anemone

There are lots of anemones at Haystack Rock - take a closer look at them the next time you visit the tidepools! Interpreters are on the beach during daily low tides and can answer your questions about anemones and the other inhabitants of Haystack Rock!

See you on the beach.


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