Spotlight on Howe Sound Marine Life: Sea Anemones

Red and green tealia.

Sea anemones are among the most obvious animals in the phylum Cnidaria, which you may have read about in our earlier blog post. The painted anemone, Urticina crassicornis (pictured above) is large and widespread, and has conspicuous red bands around the tentacles. Another sea anemone common to rock walls in Howe Sound is the swimming anemone, Stomphia didemon, an orange anemone (at left) that can escape sea star predators by stretching upward, letting go and flexing off into the current.

The video below shows the crimson anemone and the tube-dwelling anemone, two more of the large and obvious anemone species in Howe Sound. The crimson anemone, Cribrinopsis fernaldi, is the anemone that candystripe shrimp live on. The tube-dwelling anemone, Pachyceriantus fimbriatus, is a mud burrower that retracts into its tube below the seabed when it senses the approach of its major predator, the giant nudibranch.

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The most abundant anemone in Howe Sound is the giant plumose anemone, which is featured in the following video:

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Divers in Howe Sound must be alert to avoid mistaking the abundant orange zoanthid for a small type of anemone. Zoanthids are close, tentacled relatives, but are attached to one another by a living base membrane (or mat) at the bottom of their stalk or column, and therefore cannot move like anemones can.

Visitors to the Vancouver Aquarium can enjoy seeing the green surf anemone at our seasonal feature, Luminescence, a celebration of aquatic light, and the many bright strawberry anemones, both of which reside in our Treasures of the B.C. Coast exhibit, but neither of those anemone species occurs in Howe Sound. Green surf anemones grow on rocks along the exposed shores of our outer coast, and strawberry anemones like tidal passages with very high current speeds.

With the support of Sitka Foundation, the Vancouver Aquarium is embarking on a two-year project to train divers to identify marine life in Howe Sound, as part of our commitment to the research and conservation of this area. The information they glean on Howe Sound’s sea life will be presented in this series of blogs, and will be used to educate students taking part in the Aquarium’s school programs and AquaVan visits to inspire the next generation to keep learning more about marine biodiversity in British Columbia.