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Identified as the beautiful but fatal flowers of the sea, the anemone is really an animal that was assigned to the order anthozoa, which means plant-animal. The sea anemone is found world wide, living only in salt waters from between tide-mark to great depths. Found most abundantly in warm waters they can reach up to 3 feet across, with the smallest of their species being no larger than a pin's head. The sea anemone's most outstanding feature is the variety of their colors and in some cases the beauty of their patterns. While colors in larger animals have been known to serve as camouflage, this creature needs neither.
Sea anemones are voracious feeders, eating any animal flesh they can catch and swallow. They have even been known to swallow the prey of larger relatives and on occasion to eat each other even though they are not immune to each others' poisons. Anemones can survive for a long time without food and will gradually diminish in size when doing this until they are quite small. It is believed that this could be one of the reasons these animals live such long lives, some even living for 100 years.
Anemones are not a stationary species. Some are known to burrow but most are seen fixed to rocks. When they move they will glide on their base or somersault, bending over to grip the substratum with their tentacles. When they let go by the base this causes them to flip over to take hold beyond the point where they were. Some species of sea anemones lie on their side to glide along, while others blow themselves up and let go with their foot so they can float away. The movement of this animal is called the inherent rhythm of activity since it is self-starting and self-maintaining. This ballet of motion is manifested in such processes as the beating of the human heart.
The majority of anemones are either male or female but some are hermaphrodites. Many shed sperm and eggs in the surrounding water, while others have larvae that develop inside the parent body. The eggs of the anemone vary in size with the largest being one millimeter wide. It is not unusual for a thousand eggs to rise from the base of the parent to separate and move away. In some of the more roving species pieces of the base are ripped away as the animal glides over rocks. This leaves bits of the base behind that will regenerate to form tiny but perfect anemones.
Most anemones are cylindrical bags with a ring of tentacles surrounding the mouth on the upper surface. The other side of this animal is flat and forms a basal disc or foot to help the animal stick to a solid support. The inside of the bag is one large stomach that is sub-divided by curtains of tissue. These hang down to partially divide the stomach into eight compartments. Anemones catch food with tentacles that are armed with stinging cells. The moment the tentacles come into contact with a small fish or shrimp the stinging cells go into action, paralyzing and holding it. Other of the tentacles bend to continue the stinging and help hold the prey until it begins to move toward the mouth. The prey is inserted into the mouth whole and indigestible remains are later voided through the mouth. The body of the anemone is made up of two layers of cells and a good series of muscles. These animals are preyed on by crabs, starfish, fish, sea spiders and large sea slugs.