Animal of the Month
September 2018

Name: Bubble Sea Anemone (AKE Bubble Tip Anemone, Bulb Tentacle Anemone)


Class: Anthozoa
Order: Actiniaria
Family: Actiniidae
Genus: Entacmaea
Species: E. quadricolor

Number of Species: There are two "variations" of this animal.
Size: About 12 inches long, 19 inches maximum.
Weight: N/A

Characteristics: Pedal column with a sticky foot, bulbs on top of many tentacles, appearing to be wavy or spiny. One mouth in the center.
Color(s): Brown, tan green, bluish-green, cream pink, red and brick red.
Preferred Habitat: Rocks, reefs and mud at depths up to 130 feet.
Range: The Indo-Pacific Ocean from the Red Sea to Samoa.
Diet: Fish and muscles.
Lifespan: Unknown in wild, up to 80 years in captivity.

Status: Currently not evaluated.

They look like plants but don't be fooled-sea anemones are actually animals! Cousins of jellyfish and coral, anemones are polyps. These polyps are colonies of many smaller organisms that form one whole animal. Anemones are named after the anemone flower. They grow in mud or on rocks in coral reefs and sport tentacles that explode with venom when touched. If you ever see one, DO NOT touch it! This venom allows anemones to catch prey that swims too close, or to fend off predators. Some anemones are equipped with a sticky foot, making them capable of moving to new locations! There are over a thousand known species of sea anemones.

The bubble sea anemone in particular can be found across the Indian and Pacific Oceans, from the Red Sea to Samoa. It can possess a dazzling array of colors from red to pink to orange to brown. There is a larger variety of this anemone that lives in deeper waters and a smaller variety that favors shallower waters. While most fish steer clear of it, these anemones live in a symbiotic relationship with thirteen species of clown fish. Clown fish have a mucus coating that makes them immune to the anemone's stings. Thus the clown fish gets to live in a heavily guarded home, and the anemone gets to eat any leftover food that the clown fish does not finish. The bubble sea anemone also has a relationship with zooxanthellae, a type of algae. This algae creates food from photosynthesis, which it shares with the anemone. In return the algae also gets a safe home.

Anemones may tolerate other members of their species, but they generally do not "play nice" together. If different anemone species are too close, the two colonies will engage in open warfare until one of them is poisoned to death. The bubble anemone tends to settle on one spot and thus is less likely to start trouble with other anemones, but it will still go to war if it detects another colony too close.

Like many anemones, bubble anemones can reproduce sexually or asexually. They release sperm into the water, which is picked up by other anemones. The parent will then grow new anemones in its mouth before releasing them into the water. Alternatively, an anemone can release its own polyps, effectively cloning itself! Bubble anemones can live for up to 80 years in captivity!

The bubble sea anemone is not currently evaluated by the ICUN and thus does not have an official conservation status. However, many of the species that depend on these anemones are on the red list. While anemones can be bred in captivity, they are increasingly being collected from the wild for pet stores. Anemones are slow to reproduce and the demand for them is growing, thus their safety is becoming increasingly concerning. Many anemones die before they even reach the retail store. Ocean pollution and reclamation, as well as trampling, by humans are also having a negative effect on anemone populations. Climate change is also a threat as the ocean temperature rises, bleaching coral reefs and anemones with them.

If you want to help these bizarre but beautiful animals as well as other coral reef species, check out these awesome websites!

Wild Singapore, Bubble Tip Anemone Fact Sheet - An informative resource on the anemone.

NOAA, Coral Reef Program - See what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is doing to protect coral reefs!

The Nature Conservancy, Coral Reefs - The Nature Conservancy has a great program to protect coral reefs!

National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Coral Reefs - Another great organization fighting to protect coral reefs!


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