Friday, 6 March 2020


Sea anemones are familiar inhabitants of rocky shores and coral reefs around the world; other species can be found at very low depths indeed. Most of the soft-bodied anthozoans known as "sea anemones" are classified in the Actinaria.

Most actinarians are sessile; that is, they live attached to rocks or other substrates and do not move, or move only very slowly by contractions of the pedal disk. A number of anemones burrow into sand, and a few can even swim short distances, by bending the column back and forth or by "flapping" their tentacles. In all, there are about 1000 species of sea anemone in the world's oceans.

Sea anemones breed by liberating sperm and eggs through their mouth into the sea. The fertilized eggs develop into planula larvae which, after being planktonic for a while, settle on the seabed and develop directly into juvenile polyps. Sea anemones can also breed asexually, by breaking in half or into smaller pieces which regenerate into polyps.

They are sometimes kept in reef aquariums; the global trade in marine ornamentals is expanding and threatens sea anemone populations in some localities, as the trade depends on collection from the wild. Most Actiniaria do not form hard parts that can be recognized as fossils, but a few fossils of sea anemones do exist; Mackenzia, from the Stephen Formation, Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale of Canada, is the oldest fossil identified as a sea anemone.

Some fossil sea anemones have also been found from the Lower Cambrian of China. The new find lends support to genetic data that suggests anthozoans — anemones, corals, octocorals and their kin — were one the first Cnidarian groups to diversify.

Reference:  Conway Morris, S. (1993). "Ediacaran-like fossils in Cambrian Burgess Shale–type faunas of North America". Palaeontology. 36 (31–0239): 593–635.