Long before the popular Pixar movie ‘Finding Nemo‘, about the adorable Clown fish that resided in a Sea Anemone became popular, Scuba divers have favored the ornately colored sea creatures never passing up a photo opportunity if they spot one.
Anemones (pronounced: uh-NEM-uh-nee) often mistaken for plants are actually predatory animals closely related to Coral and jellyfish. Anemones are polyps that attach themselves to rocks on the sea bottom or on coral reefs. The pretty tube like petals often seen swaying about with anemone fish (like the clown fish) darting through them, are venom-filled tentacles targeted at paralyzing passing fish. With nearly 1000 species of sea anemones and spread throughout the World’s oceans, although the largest and most varied occur in coastal tropical waters. Sea anemones are easily identifiable on a dive and are often associated with the clownfish with which around 10 species of sea anemones share create an alliance.
Contrary to popular belief that clownfish live in any anemone, only 10 percent of anemone species form a symbiotic relationship with the fish, most other anemone like coral allow algae safe harbor in exchange for the bi-products of its photosynthesis- sugar and oxygen. The clownfish on the other hand has a fascinating way of developing an immunity towards the anemones stinging tentacles. After it is stung the clownfish returns to the anemone repeatedly, gingerly touching the tentacles to its ventral fins and then slowly introducing its entire belly. The elaborate process helps the fish develop a protective mucus layer allowing it to live safely among the tentacles of the anemone. In return for shelter in its tentacles, the anemone feeds on the scraps from the clownfish’s meals without having to wait for its own prey as they are not voracious predators.
Anemones live in shallow waters where they get plenty of sunlight just like most coral species, making them a perfect subject for underwater photography. Their bright colors and swaying tentacles . They run the full spectrum of colors and make for great photographs especially when clustered together appearing like a carpet. The can be as small as half an inch (1.25 centimeters) or as large as 6 feet (1.8 meters) across.