Tidepool sea anemones

WormsMusselsBarnacles by CMaParsonsTidepool living has to be tough. Each day cycles through wet, cold and sheltered to dry, warm and exposed, then repeats. Last week I spent some time photographing and exploring tidepools during morning low tides. Amazing what’s there, and the closer you look, the more there is to see. In this photo the obvious species are sandcastle worm tubes surrounding mussels dotted with barnacles. I’m sure you’d find more if you looked closely — maybe algae, limpets, tunicates or hidden crabs. But that’s for another time.

For this post, I’m focusing on the shots I got of sea anemones in tidepools that still contained water (without water they close up or droop and wait for the tide to wash back in). I found three species during my morning ventures.

GreenAnemone1 by CMaParsonsThe giant green anemone (Anthopleura xanthogrammica) is a wow green and stands out in the sand or a shallow pool. This species grows to 8 inches (20 cm) across. Sea anemones look like flowers but are animals closely related to jellies, complete with tentacles and stinging cells for capturing food. (These stinging cells are typically too light duty to harm people.)

SunburstAnemones by CMaParsonsThe sunburst anemone (Anthopleura sola) is not as brightly colored as the giant green, but is distinguished by lovely lines on a pale blue-green oral disc (the flat mouth side). This species grows to 6 inches (15 cm) across. Sea anemones keep their distance —they have special stinging clubs and will do battle with anemone neighbors to keep them away.

AggregatingAnemones by CMaParsons

The third species in our area is smaller and more cozy than the other two. The aggregating anemone (Anthopleura elegantissima) grows to 2.5 inches (6 cm) and is found in groups (members of the group are clones). Clonal communities keep separate from one another — you can spot a demilitarized zone between them. At low tide aggregating anemones create a squishy carpet. In several places I had to be very careful not to step on them as I moved between the rocks.

If you get a chance, visit a tidepool at low tide to discover its wonders, but walk carefully and don’t disturb the residents. Tidepool life is vulnerable at low tide, especially to foot traffic and exposure. If you’re interested in more about Monterey Bay sea anemones, look at the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary SIMoN Species Database or Hopkins’ Seanet Common Intertidal Organisms of Monterey Bay website.

About Chris Parsons

Science writer/educator exploring nature and sharing via words, images, data and stories — to connect, inspire and conserve.
This entry was posted in California coastline, Monterey Bay, Tidepools and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Tidepool sea anemones

  1. Dear Chris, thank you for taking us back to our beloved Pacific Coast. We sure do appreciate your keeping us ‘hydrated’. Love your postings.


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s