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Starburst Anemone

Anthopleura sola


This species looks very similar to Anthopleura elegantissima, and formerly was simply identified as a solitary form of A. elegantissima. Pearse and Francis identified it as a separate species by molecular techniques in 2000. This species grows larger than A. elegantissima usually does (up to 25 cm wide), and is not normally found in contact with or even very near A. elegantissima. Cylindrical. The column is pale gray-green to white and twice as long as wide when completely extended; pale, variously colored tentacles with pink, lavender, or blue tips, in 5 rings around oral disk and are numerous, thick, and pointed. The anemone has a ring of knobs (acrorhagia) with stinging cells just under and outside the ring of tentacles (photo). When the anemones are not fighting the acrorhagia are usually retracted and hard to see. The column is covered with vertical rows of adhesive tubercles or verrucae (picture). One can distinguish the species from A. xanthogrammica by their branched verrucae, coloration (especially colored tips of the tentacles and clearly marked stripes on the oral disk), and the fact that their adhesive tubercles are arranged in vertical rows while those of A. xanthogrammica are not. Most individuals are at least 3 cm in diameter, and average 12 cm.


The starburst anemone is found in the north east Pacific Ocean. In the United States it occurs between central California and Baja California. It lives in the lower intertidal zone in rocky habitats, often in the shelter of cracks and crevices. When the tide is out it is often concealed by shell fragments and other particles that adhere to it. They live in tidal pools on the rocks and in deep channels on rocky shores. They also attach to concrete pilings in harbors.


Went down to visit a tide pool section at Natural Bridges State beach and spotted quite a few of these in different pools.

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Spotted by

Santa Cruz, California, USA

Spotted on Sep 20, 2014
Submitted on Oct 4, 2014

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