Anemones Fight Back Against Their Opressors

From van der Meij and Reijnen (2011) Fig. 1 a–e The unsuccessful attempt of an edwardsiid sea anemone to feed on a Nembrotha lineolata. f A non-responsive Phyllidia ocellata caught by the tentacles of an edwardsiid sea anemone

You may not realize that those unassuming slugs of the oceans, nudibranchs, are voracious predators in hiding.  Sponges, corals, hydroids, bryozoans, anemones, barnacles, the Portugese Man-O-War, and even other sea slugs will wind up in the digestive tract of a nudibranch.  Not even other nudibranchs, even if they are same species, can escape the eating fury of the nudibranch.  But one species is fighting back.

Crustaceans and fish feed on the nudibranch, but rarely does the nudibranch’s prey become its predator.  Off Malaysia, sea anemones are doing it for themselves.  Photos (above) were taken of the a reef-dwelling anemone, belonging to a species of the family Edwardsiidae, attempting to feed on a nudibranch of the species Nembrotha lineolata. The anemone was observed to have the nudibranch partially swallowed. This was before the slug was able to stretch itself to the surrounding sand and pull itself free. In another case, an anemone had a paralyzed or dead nudibranch in its tentacles.  The anemone was actively moving its tentacles in attempt to move the prey into its “mouth”.

We at DSN support anemones in their struggle against Molluskan domination. In honor of anemones, we dedicate the two following songs of rising above to you.

Meij, S., & Reijnen, B. (2011). First observations of attempted nudibranch predation by sea anemones Marine Biodiversity DOI: 10.1007/s12526-011-0097-9

Dr. M (1730 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Assistant Director of Science for the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, a National Science Foundation supported initiative. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (, a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web. His forthcoming book, Science of the South (, connects cultural icons of South such as pecan pie with the science behind them.