Sea anemone feast

by Michela Mitchell
Publish date
7 February 2014
Comments (5)

Michela is the first resident taxonomist of Actiniaria (sea anemones) in Australia. This title doesn't come with a ceremonial sash, but it should.

Photographed by Dr Julian Finn on a recent dive trip to Nelson Bay, New South Wales, this sea anemone is taking on a shrimp feast to rival that of an Aussie BBQ. 

Sea anemone A sea anemone, Phlyctenanthus australis, chowing down on a Hinge-back Shrimp, Rhynchocinetes serratus. There's also a photobombing chiton in the background.
Image: Julian Finn
Source: Museum Victoria

Little has been documented about the diets of sea anemones, particularly in Australia. These chance encounters and images help us understand these predominately sedentary animals (although, they can set a cracking pace if they so desire) and what role they play in the marine ecosystem. 

Sea anemones are opportunistic feeders that catch whatever food passes by. Prey is ensnared and then immobilised with specialised stinging cells (nematocysts) found in the tissue of sea anemones.

There are many different types of nematocysts and each has its own function; some are sticky for catching prey, some poisonous, others are used in self-defence. When feeding, the anemone extrudes its mouth and throat (actinopharynx) over the prey, sometimes completely enclosing it. The sea anemone then crushes and digests the food in the throat, which also acts as the gullet. Food waste is then ejected back out the mouth, which doubles as the anus.

Not all sea anemones are totally reliant on eating; some have a symbiosis with zooxanthellae (microscopic algae) that live in their tissues, and the sea anemone can use nutrients created by the photosynthesising algae.

Comments (5)

sort by
joanne harmon 7 February, 2014 15:37
Wow. I never really knew much about sea anemones. Particularly the mouth and anus bit. Note to self, no kissing anemones- ever.
Michela MItchell 7 February, 2014 17:47
It is a animal of mystery
Karen King 7 February, 2014 18:27
congratulations on your first blog it was very interesting
Kim Bear 8 February, 2014 15:58
Good article! I particularly like the photo caption.
Rowena Flynn 11 February, 2014 11:13
I saw the waratah anemone on the weekend at Beaumaris, red like a flower. Thanks for the post.
Write your comment below All fields are required

We love receiving comments, but can’t always respond.

About this blog

Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.