Did you know that sea anemones are carnivorous (meat eating) animals? They live in the ocean, have no bones (invertebrate), look like a flower, but eat other animals! You have probably seen them in tide pools along our North Coast. You can touch them gently and they stick to your fingers.
There are about 1,000 species of sea anemones. Some are small, only about a half inch across, but the biggest anemones can reach six feet tall! One of our most common sea anemones on the North Coast, and one of the biggest in the world, is the giant green anemone. It can grow up to three feet across!
Sea anemones are shaped like a tube. The bottom of the tube is called a foot, and the top of the tube-shaped body has tentacles around it. In the middle of the ring of tentacles is the mouth. The sea anemone is related to the jellyfish, and like the jellyfish, have nematocysts (stingers) in its tentacles. The sea anemone uses these tentacles to catch prey like fish, zooplankton, mussels, crabs, or worms. Only a few animals eat anemones. Clownfish, along with some other types of underwater critters, have adapted to be immune to the sea anemone’s sting. They actually benefit from one another.
Most sea anemones are sessile, meaning that like barnacles, they stay in one spot. Most anemones attach to rocks or coral and don’t go anywhere, only eating prey that swims into the grasp of their tentacles, which sting the prey and pull into their mouth. A few species can move slowly, like a snail. The few species that live in deep water are free floating, meaning they float upside-down with their tentacles under their body and catch prey that swim into their grasp.