Are Sea Anemones Plants or Animals?

Perhaps you’ve heard of certain plants that behave like animals, like the Venus flytrap. But are there animals that behave and resemble plants? Believe it or not, there are!

A sea anemone (pronounced uh-NEM-uh-nee) closely resembles a flower, but it is actually a marine creature. In fact, it is named after the beautifully colored anemone flower.

The world’s oceans are home to over 1,000 different species of sea anemones. However, the largest sea anemones are typically found in coastal tropical waters. They can be found in various colors and can vary in size, ranging from half an inch to over six feet in diameter.

Sea anemones are closely related to corals and jellyfish. Their bodies are hollow columns with a mouth and stinging tentacles at the top.

Sea anemones primarily live attached to rocks on the ocean floor or on coral reefs. They wait for small fish and other prey to come close enough to become ensnared in their stinging tentacles.

Once prey comes within range, a sea anemone deploys venomous stinging threads from its tentacles to paralyze its prey. Once the prey is immobilized, the sea anemone uses its tentacles to grasp and guide it into its mouth.

However, sea anemones are not always stationary. They can slowly slide along the ocean floor or swim by using their tentacles. They can also hitch a ride with other sea creatures from time to time.

For instance, sea anemones have been observed to form symbiotic relationships with hermit crabs. A symbiotic relationship is one in which two organisms mutually benefit from each other in unique ways.

Why would a sea anemone want to attach itself to a hermit crab? And why would a hermit crab offer a ride to a sea anemone? Because both organisms benefit from this relationship!

The sea anemone is able to capture more food as the hermit crab transports it to different locations. On the other hand, the hermit crab gains protection, as the sea anemone’s stinging tentacles deter predators.

In addition, sea anemones have been observed to form symbiotic relationships with certain fish. Those who have watched the movie Finding Nemo are familiar with the clownfish, which often resides amidst the stinging tentacles of sea anemones.

The sea anemone’s tentacles shield the clownfish from its predators. The clownfish is not stung by the sea anemone’s tentacles because it possesses a special mucous layer that provides protection.

In return, the clownfish chases away predators that may try to consume the sea anemone. The clownfish also assists in keeping the sea anemone clean.

Try It Out

Would you like to learn more about sea anemones? Ask a friend or family member to help you explore the following activities:

  • Explore the wide range of sea anemones across the globe by visiting National Geographic’s incredible photo gallery of sea anemones. Which one is your favorite and why?
  • If you are inspired by the beautiful colors and fascinating shapes of sea anemones, try these enjoyable crafts: + How To Draw a Clownfish + Sea Anemone Pipe Cleaner Craft
  • Are you intrigued by the relationship between sea anemones and clownfish? If so, check out 5 Amazing Symbiotic Animal Relationships You Didn’t Know About online. Which relationship do you find the most unique and why?

Sources of Wonder


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