SINGAPORE – This marine creature is often confused with a flower because of its ornate crown and stem-like body. But the sea anemone is a carnivorous animal that feeds by ensnaring unsuspecting prey in its venom-lined tentacles. More than 45 species can be found in Singapore, making the island’s sea anemones more diverse than the western coast of North America, according to a database by late anemone expert Daphne Gail Fautin.
The Straits Times looks at five fascinating anemones found in Singapore waters.
1. Lined bead anemone (Diadumene lineata)
The 0.5cm-long Diadumene lineata, also known as the lined bead anemone, is one of several anemones that live in storm drains. It resembles tiny blobs with fine stripes in white, orange, yellow or red, and usually tucks its tentacles into its greyish body. It is considered the most widely distributed species of sea anemone in the world, and is believed to have originated from East Asia and spread around the world by attaching itself to passing ships. This hardy anemone can reproduce from a single parent, which is one of several ways some anemones reproduce.
2. Very long anemone (Actinoporus elongatus)
Anemones are soft-bodied creatures consisting of a broad flat disc on top of a body column. The disc is where a slit that acts as both its mouth and anus is located. The very long anemone can extend its body to 0.5m or longer. It can be hard to extract when it buries itself in the sand. About a dozen people are needed to collect a single specimen for research, said marine enthusiast Ria Tan. It can shrink drastically after it is removed from the sea as the anemone is made up mostly of water, she added.
3. Fire anemone (Actinodendron sp.)
It has one of the nastiest and most potent stings in the world. This large anemone, with a diameter of up to 20cm, is often seen among seagrasses and in sandy areas near reefs on Singapore’s southern shores. Avoid touching anemones as all of them sting, like their cousins the jellyfish. Some people may also be allergic to these stings. “When stung by an anemone, it is important to learn to identify it accurately. The most effective treatment for the stings differs with species as what is effective for one species may aggravate for others,” said local anemone expert Nicholas Yap.
4. Haddon’s carpet anemone (Stichodactyla haddoni)
This common anemone has colours ranging from dark green to deep purple, and is densely covered with short and sticky tentacles to look like a short-pile carpet. It provides shelter for creatures, such as shrimp and the clown anemone fish. It is known as boren among islanders who lived on Pulau Ubin, and has been prepared as a tasty ingredient for rendang – meat stewed in coconut milk and spices – according to heritage blog Wan’s Ubin Journal. Do not try to cook or eat it without getting expert advice on identification and the cooking process.
5. Swimming anemone (Boloceroides mcmurrichi)
This anemone resembles a spiky ball that can detach itself from a surface and swim with its tentacles. At low tide, it is often spotted loosely attached to seaweed and seagrass. If threatened, it can deliberately drop a tentacle to distract its predator. The dropped tentacle can regenerate into a new swimming anemone. Despite the common perception that anemones can regenerate asexually, only a handful of species, such as the swimming anemone, can do so.
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