Anthopleura elegantissima “Aggregating Anemone” Anthozoa

Olympic National Park, WA
June 1, 2013
Robert Niese

A very common intertidal resident here in the Puget Sound and on the open coast. If it’s big and green, it’s Anthopleura xanthogrammica. If it’s white and has very fine tentacles (usually subtidal, not intertidal) then it’s Metridium. Now you can identify 90% of the anemones you find in your backyard!

The Bestiary: Aggregating Anemone

When you hit up a blog dealing with various weird and badass sea creatures, I do believe anemones are not the first things you expect. I mean, really. What do anemones even do aside of waving their tentacles around all day like the lazy asses they are and providing background for done-to-death pastoral postcard images involving clownfish frolicking around in the limp embrace of Cnidarian tentacles? I feel dirty just from writing that down.

Frankly, anemones are boring as fuck.

Then again, anemones usually don’t do this.

The keyword being “usually”.

Today’s Episode: the Aggregating Anemone

If any of you missed my brilliant pun, I referenced “Clone Wars”.

Because that’s literally what this Jell-O fuck does, it wages clone wars. Really.

It goes by the name of aggregating anemone, or Anthopleura elegantissima. Even it’s name tells you it’s fucking fabulous, and you better keep that in mind or it will declare war on your ass and that’s something I wouldn’t wish upon anyone, not even my worst enemies.

It doesn’t just sit on its ass by itself, instead reproducing asexually at insane speeds (the process itself basically consists of the anemone tearing itself in half), completely covering unusually huge-ass boulders within unusually short amounts of time, turning itself into a legion of genetically-identical killer polyps flipping off the entire world with a translucent, slime-coated middle-finger.

And to top the menace factor off, they are the closest thing the shore fauna has to a xenophobic alien empire: they are perfectly identical genetically, and hate the guts of absolutely everything that’s genes and chemical markers are not a 100% match to theirs. Thus, they are known for attacking anything unlucky enough to accidentally cross the borders of Glorious Anemone Homeland, including other aggregating anemones. You know what this means.

Both anemone colonies will fortify their borders with special “warrior” polyps possessing big knobbly tentacles, all of which are positively crammed with special venomous weapon cells known as “nematocysts”. It’s a bit hard to explain how they work, but imagining them as a blend of a poison syringe and a harpoon gun is a pretty close approximation. Observe:

Meanwhile, the inner parts of the colony will employ their symbiotic algae to crank out as much energy for the unstoppable war machine as possible, occasionally going even further and swallowing entire crabs whole and only spitting back out their empty shells, completely scoured of flesh. Jesus Christ, anemones can be hella scary.

The warfare itself follows the tidal cycle. During low tide, the opposing legions lay low and gather energy, only to start the carnage again when high tide comes. When two warrior polyps stretch too close to each other, they will duke it out in an epic shower of venomous cellular death-harpoons, resulting in both of their deaths and the formation of a “demilitarized zone” or “no-man’s-land”, if you will.

Pictured: the closest thing to open armed conflict that can happen on fucking sea shores

Occasionally, a lone polyp will be accidentally left on the deserted territories, hopping around awkwardly to locate its comrades, these are subjected to a bionic volley of dart fire by the opposing faction, and either get killed to death or return to their own armies, heavily wounded, where in turn they get fucking murdered by their own brothers-in-arms, because of their altered chemical signals resulting from the enemy’s venom in their bodies. Fucking assholes never heard of comradery or heroism.

The deaths of these lost soldiers aren’t in vain, though, since that’s apparently how the colony approximates the borders of enemy territory, that is, by the frequency of wounded polyps returning home. The aggregating anemone is so hardcore that it determines the position of the enemy by executing its own failed warriors.

Fucking vikings had nothing on these little slimy shits, and they are only anemones.


Tide pool anemones.
#anemone #anthopleura #xanthogrammica #tidepools #tidepool #greenanemone #oregoncoast #oregon #portorford (at Oregon Coast)

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