Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Jenny. Jenny Wonders, “Is a anemone a plant or an animal?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Jenny!
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 (pronounced 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 corals 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.