You’ve probably heard of some plants that act like animals, such as the Venus flytrap. But are there animals that act and look like plants? Believe it or not, there are!

A sea anemone (uh-NEM-uh-nee) looks a lot like a flower, but it’s actually a marine animal. In fact, it’s named after the beautifully-colored anemone flower.

The oceans of the world contain over 1,000 different species of sea anemones. The largest sea anemones can usually be found in coastal tropical waters, though. They come in just about any color, and they can range in size from a half-inch to more than six feet in diameter.

Sea anemones are close relatives of coral and jellyfish. Their bodies are hollow columns with a mouth and stinging tentacles at the top.

Sea anemones mostly live attached to rocks on the sea floor or on coral reefs. They wait for small fish and other prey to swim close enough to get caught in their stinging tentacles.

When prey gets close enough, a sea anemone will use its tentacles to eject venomous stinging threads that paralyze its prey. Once its prey is subdued, a sea anemone uses its tentacles to grasp the prey and sweep it into its mouth.

Sea anemones don’t always stay in one place, though. They can slide slowly along the ocean floor or swim by moving their tentacles. They can also hitch a ride from time to time with other sea creatures.

For example, sea anemones have been known to have symbiotic relationships with hermit crabs. A symbiotic relationship is one in which two animals help each other out in unique ways.

Why would a sea anemone want to attach itself to a hermit crab? And why would a hermit crab want to give a sea anemone a ride? Because each animal benefits from the relationship!

The sea anemone is able to catch more food, since the hermit crab moves it around from place to place. As for the hermit crab, it gets protection, because the sea anemone’s stinging tentacles scare away predators.

Sea anemones have also been known to develop symbiotic relationships with certain fish. Those of you who have seen the movie Finding Nemo know that the clownfish often lives among the stinging tentacles of the sea anemone.

The sea anemone’s tentacles keep the clownfish safe from its predators. The clownfish doesn’t get stung by the sea anemone’s tentacles, because it has a special mucous layer that protects it from being stung.

The clownfish, in turn, chases away predators that might want to eat the sea anemone. The clownfish also helps to keep the sea anemone clean.


36 Join the Discussion

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    • Hi, Paige! We hope you had an AWESOME Saturday! Thanks so much for checking out today’s Wonder of the Day® about sea anemones…we’re glad you liked the video and pictures of all the sea life! :-)

    • We’re so very happy to hear that, Hannah! Thank you for leaving us another GREAT comment to let us know you thought today’s Wonder was cool! :-)

  1. Wow I’ve never been the first wonderer! Or is it wonder friend? Anyway, that is REALLY weird! It’s a animal and it is grown to look like to be able to survive! I’m happy I don’t have to camouflage! You should do a wonder about..Harry Potter! I LOVE Harry Potter!

    • Hi, Maxini! We’re really glad you stopped by Wonderopolis again today and that you learned some new facts about sea anemones! You can call yourself a Wonder Friend or a WONDERer! We think BOTH names are great because they both mean you like learning new things in Wonderopolis! :-)

    • Hello, Rebecca! You and Wonder Friend, Rahul, both think tomorrow’s Wonder will have something to do with spies. We’re getting excited to see if you guys are right!

  2. This is really cool Wonder. It is neat seeing a crab with a sea anemone walking around. I was wondering how come crabs don’t get stung by it? Also if the anemone moves slowly how can it get on the crabs back?

    • Those are both really awesome questions, Colton! We’re not exactly sure about the answers, though…we’ll both have to do a bit more WONDERing about the symbiotic relationship between sea anemones and crabs, won’t we? Thanks so much for thinking more about what you learned today! We’re proud of you! :-)

  3. I think it’s really cool that sea anemone are animals because I always thought they were plants. I don’t know what the wonder of the day is tomorrow.

    • Hi there, Alan! We’re so happy to hear from you today! Thanks for sharing that you learned something new about sea anemones today! We think that’s SO COOL! We hope you have a WONDERful rest of the weekend! :-)

    • Hello, Kiki! We think it’s AWESOME that you learned some new things about sea life by exploring this Wonder of the Day®! Thanks for letting us know, and THANKS for loving Wonderopolis! :-)

  4. That was really cool. When it moved, it looked like it was breathing. I always knew they were animals but I didn’t know they breathed it was a very interesting video. I wonder if the crab got hurt and if the sea anemones. I think tomorrow’s wonder is going to be about penguins.

    • Thanks for letting us know you thought this Wonder of the Day® was cool and that you thought the video was interesting, Kendall! We appreciate hearing from our Wonder Friends and are super glad you are one of them! :-)

  5. Hi, Wonderopolis. I came to add some more comments or complements…
    I watched this in school, awesome!!!
    Oh, and I won my dodge ball game…
    Anyways, I love wonderopolis!!!

    • Hello, Kiki! Thanks for stopping by Wonderopolis today to leave us this comment…HIGH FIVE on your dodge ball win! We think that’s AWESOME! We also think it’s AWESOME that you love learning new things here in Wonderopolis…YOU ROCK! :-)

  6. Wow! I wish that I could go down in the sea and see those kinds of sea animals. I think that would be so cool to do. Thanks for putting this on wonderopolis and letting me read this. You’re the best

    • You’re right, Victoria! Thank you so much for adding something extra awesome to this Wonder of the Day® with your comment! :-)

  7. Hello Wonderopolis I really enjoy your site! Today I wondered about, Are Sea Anemones Plants or Animals? I never new that they have venous traps. I thought that it was very cool. Thanks Wonderopolis for all the cool things you have on this site and for letting me read this!

    • It brings BIG smiles to our faces to hear that you enjoy learning in Wonderopolis so much, Team Unger 18! We’re glad you found out some cool facts about sea anemones! Way to go! :-)

  8. We always grow a TickleMe Plant in my classroom. Everyone runs to see and Tickle the plants to watch how the leaves interact when you Tickle them. Forget growing lima beans, the new winner is the TickleMe Plant. It is more like an animal than a plant.

    • What a cool new idea, Jannie! Thanks for sharing a new Wonder with us– we love hearing about fun and exciting ways to use our imagination! Have a SUPER day! :)

  9. May you please make a wonder about the reaction time of a swing of a bat by a professional Baseball Player?

    • Hey Wonder Friend B! We are so glad you submitted a Wonder of your own! It takes some time to go from Wonder idea to completed Wonder, but we are glad you have a nominated Wonder for us to check out! :)

    • Thanks for noticing, Gavin! The animals in our original featured video are zoanthids. Anemones and zoanthids belong to the same Class Anthozoa, but sea anemones belong to Order Actiniaria and zoanthids belong Order Zoanthidea. We posted a new video of anemones to avoid any confusion. We’re glad you’re WONDERing with us! Have you seen our other Wonders about marine biology?

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Are sea anemones plants or animals?
  • How do sea anemones eat?
  • What are symbiotic relationships?

Wonder Gallery

sea anemone_shutterstock_21850051Vimeo Video

Try It Out

Ready to check out the wide variety of sea anemones around the world? National Geographic features a fantastic photo gallery of sea anemones online.

If the beautiful colors and interesting shapes of sea anemones inspire you, try one of these fun crafts:

If you’d like to share your creation with us, we’d love to see it! Just email a picture to us or post one on Facebook!


Still Wondering

Explore Science NetLinks’ Coral Reef Adventure Fun Zone for fun underwater adventures!


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