Corynactis californica Carlgren, 1936 

Common name(s):  Strawberry anemone, California club-ray

Phylum Cnidaria
 Class Anthozoa
   Subclass Zoantharia
    Order Corallimorpha
     Family Corallimorphidae
A cluster of Corynactis californica at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, CA.  Polyps are 1 to 1.5 cm diameter.
Photo by: Dave Cowles, August 2010
Description:  This species is one of the few Corallimorph cnidarians found in our area, and the only one in Kozloff's key.  Corallimorphs are not true anemones. The most obvious difference is that their tentacles end in knobs (club-tipped tentacles), as are visible in the picture above.  The tentacles are not fully retractile, and are usually white.  Corallimorphs are also very similar to corals in some other characters, but lack the hard coral skeleton.  This species is often found in groups, with individuals up to 2 cm long or even more (photo) (average height and diameter is 1 cm).  May be colored red, crimson, pink, purple, pale blue, lavender, brown, orange, buff, or nearly white.

How to Distinguish from Similar Species: There are no other anemone-like species in our area with club-tipped tentacles.  The orange cup coral  Balanophyllia elegans is of similar size and often similar color (photo) but has a hard skeleton and does not have club-tipped tentacles.

Geographical Range:  This species is said to be common in some areas of southern California but I have not often encountered it.  It occurs from British Columbia to San Martin Island, Baja California but is rarely found intertidally north of California.

Depth Range:  Intertidal to 30 m

Habitat:  Rocky shores (under rock ledges), concrete wharf pilings, plastic foam floats.  Especially where there are strong currents.

Biology/Natural History:  The knobbed tentacles contain very large cnidae, easy to view under the microscope.  Undischarged cnidae have osmotic pressures up to 140 atmospheres.  Has been observed in the lab to defend against attack by Anthopleura elegantissima by extending its cnidae-rich mesenteries through the mouth.  This species reproduces asexually by longitudinal fission.  Clones are all the same color.  Feeds on copepods, nauplius larvae, and other small animals.

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Dichotomous Keys:

  Kozloff, 1987
  Smith and Carlton, 1975

General References:
  Barnes, 1980
  Gotshall and Laurent, 1979
  Kozloff, 1993
  Morris et al., 1980

Scientific Articles:

General Notes and Observations:  Locations, abundances, unusual behaviors, etc.:

Since they do not have a solid skeleton as does Balanophyllia elegans, the polyps can stretch out quite tall, as seen in this photo.  Taken at Monterey Bay Aquarium by Dave Cowles, August 2010.

These individuals from the Monterey Bay Aquarium show another color variation--strongly white tentacles.

This view shows Corynactis californica in front and the orange cup coral Balanophyllia elegans in the back, to show their similarities and differences.  Note the empty skeletons of Balanophyllia elegans encrusting the rock.  Photo at Monterey Bay Aquarium by Dave Cowles, August 2010.

Authors and Editors of Page:
Dave Cowles (2002):  Created original page
Edited by Dave Cowles, 2005