How to Distinguish from Similar Species: : It is similar to Anthopleura xanthogrammica, which is all green. A. elegantissima almost always have pinkish tips on their tentacles, and in the Pacific Northwest are usually a bit smaller in size. Anthopleura artemisia has verrucae on only the top 2/3 of its column and usually lives mostly buried in sand. Anthopleura sola, which was formerly known as the solitary form of A. elegantissima, is very similar except that it is solitary and usually larger. It was distinguished from A. elegantissima by molecular means.
Geographical Range: From Alaska all the way down to Baja California.
Depth Range: Live in the intertidal zone.
Habitat: Can be found either in dense populations or solitary, on rock walls, boulders, or pilings from between high- and low-tide lines to low-tide line. Prefers to live in semiprotected areas near the outer coast.
Biology/Natural History: Background color is due in part to zooxanthellae and zoochlorellae living symbiotically in the gastrodermal layer. (see below photo) Both are able to live in the anemone at the same time. They are able to transfer carbon to their host, the anemone. Its possible that the anemone can control the numbers of algal cells that it has by expelling them in a bolus of mucus. The species can handle a high range of temperatures, but the higher temperatures do affect the number of symbiotic algae. Tend to eat barnacle molts, dead debris from plankton, and mussels that have fallen off the overhead rocks. Anemones of this species frequently divide asexually by expanding the base of their column in two directions until they tear in half (picture). Large clusters, or aggregations, of clonally related anemones come to dominate areas of the intertidal in this way (picture). The aggregating anemones have an aggressive behavior towards other anemones that are not clones of themselves, (see photo below) and maintain anemone-free areas between clones (photo). They do sexually reproduce to disperse to new habitats. The verrucae frequently are holding bits of shell or gravel (picture) which is thought to provide some protection from ultraviolet light and/or reduce desiccation. Predators include the seastar Dermasterias imbricata, the nudibranch Aeolidia papillosa, and the wentletrap snail Epitonium tinctum.
Asexual division is especially common in January to March (Hand, 1955)
This anemone may harbor either zooxanthellae (dinoflagellate) or zoochlorellae (chlorophyte) intracellular symbionts. In California, the zooxanthellae may be either Symbiodinium californium or S. muscatinei. In Oregon and Washington the only zooxanthellae symbionts are S. muscatinei. Anemones with zooxanthellae have been observed from Baja California to SE Alaska, but are more common from Washington south. Anemones with zoochlorellae occur from Cape Blanco, Oregon north at least to Vancouver Island. The zoochlorella has recently been identified as Elliptochloris marina. In areas where both symbionts occur, anemones with zooxanthellae can be found throughout the intertidal but favor the upper levels, while anemones with zoochlorellae are primarily found in the lower intertidal or in shaded areas. This trend persists through the year, even though anemones appear to be able to change symbionts and many anemones contain a mixture of the two symbionts. The most rapid division of the algal symbionts occurred in July and November (Dimond et al., 2011)
Kozloff 1987, 1996
Smith and Carlton, 1975
Engebretson, H.P, and G. Muller-Parker, 1999. Translocation of photosynthetic carbon from two algal symbionts to the sea anemone Anthopleura elegantissima. Biological Bulletin 197: 72-81
Francis, Lisbeth, 1979. Contrast between solitary and clonal lifestyles in the sea anemone Anthopleura elegantissima. American Zoologist 19: 669-681
Harris, Larry G. and Nathan R. Howe, 1979. An analysis of the defensive mechanisms observed in the anemone Anthopleura elegantissima in response to its nudibranch predator Aeolidia papillosa. Biological Bulletin 157: pp. 138-152
Hand, Cadet, 1955. The sea anemones of central California part II. The endomyarian and mesomyarian anemones. The Wasmann Journal of Biology 13:1 pp. 37-99
LaJeunesse, T.C., and R.K. Trench, 2000. Biogeography of two species of Symbiodinium (Freudenthal) inhabiting the intertidal sea anemone Anthopleura elegantissima (Brandt). Biological Bulletin 199: 126-134
Lewis, L. L. and G. Muller-Parker, 2004. Phylogenetic placement of "zoochlorellae" (Chlorophyta), algal symbiont of the temperate sea anemone Anthopleura elegantissima. Biological Bulletin 207: 87-92
McCloskey, L.R., T.G. Cove, and E.A. Verde, 1996. Symbiont expulsion from the anemone Anthopleura elegantissima (Brandt) (Cnidaria; Anthozoa). J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 195: 173-176
McFadden, C.S., R.K. Grosberg, B. B. Cameron, D. P. Karlton, and D. Secord, 1997. Genetic relationships within and between clonal and solitary forms of the sea anemone Anthopleura elegantissima revisited: evidence for the existence of two species. Marine Biology 128: 127-139
Saunders, B.K. and G. Muller-Parker, 1997. The effects of temperature and light on two algal populations in the temperate sea anemone Anthopleura elegantissima (Brandt, 1835). J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 211: 213-224
Sebens, K.P., 1977. Habitat suitability, reproductive ecology and the plasticity of body size in two sea anemone populations. Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Washington.
Secord, D. L., and L. Augustine, 2000. Biogeography and microhabitat variation in temperate algal-invertebrate symbioses: Zooxanthellae and zoochlorellae in two Pacific intertidal sea anemones, Anthopleura elegantissima and A. xanthogrammica. Invertebrate Biology 119: 139-146
Secord, David and Gisele Muller-Parker, 2005. Symbiont distribution along a light gradient within an intertidal cave. Limnology and Oceanography 50:1 272-278
Smith, B.L. and D.C. Potts, 1987. Clonal and solitary anemones (Anthopleura) of western North America: population genetics and systematics. Marine Biology 94: 537-546
Verde, E.A. and L. R. McCloskey, 1996a. Carbon budget studies of symbiotic cnidarian anemones--evidence in support of some assumptions. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 195: 161-171
Verde, E.A. and L.R. McCloskey, 1996b. Photosynthesis and respiration of two species of algal symbionts in the anemone Anthopleura elegantissima (Brandt) (Cnidaria; Anthozoa). J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 195: 187-202
Verde, E.A. and L. R. McCloskey, 2001. A comparative analysis of the photobiology of zooxanthellae and zoochlorellae symbiotic with the temperate clonal anemone Anthopleura elegantissima (Brandt). I. Effect of temperature. Mar. Biol. 138: 447-489
Verde, E.A. and L. R. McCloskey, 2002. A comparative analysis of the photobiology of zooxanthellae and zoochlorellae symbiotic with the temperate clonal anemone Anthopleura elegantissima (Brandt). II. Effect of light intensity. Mar. Biol. 141: 225-239
General Notes and Observations: Locations, abundances, unusual behaviors, etc.:
Several clones in this tidepool, each of which looks slightly different, are separated by a bare, unoccupied line. Several individuals along the margins have attack tentacles exposed. Photo by Dave Cowles, Beach #4, July 2012
Authors and Editors of Page:
Brandon White, creator of original page. 8-2002.
Edited by Hans Helmstetler 12-2002
Edited by Dave Cowles 2004, 2005