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Friday, May 10, 2013

Mesmerizing


Sometimes I'm tempted not to write anything at all and to let these pictures and organisms speak for themselves.  This is one of those times, but this little sea anemone has quite a story!  It's hard not to be mesmerized by the delicate pink tentacles and the white striping pattern.  (The disc of the anemone is ~1 cm across.)


At first this species looks very similar to a more common anemone, Epiactis prolifera.  However, note that at least two of the white stripes continue over the edges of the mouth in the center of the disc (see below).


The texture and coloration of the column is even more helpful when separating this species from Epiactis.  These aren't great pictures, but you can still see that unlike Epiactis the column of this anemone is rough or bumpy rather than smooth and it lacks stripes. 



Both the oral disc striping pattern and the column characteristics confirm this as Aulactinia incubans.  This appears to be the first record of this species for Bodega Head.  Indeed, this species is probably rare throughout California, being a more northern species, with The Light and Smith Manual saying only this: "Described from San Juan Island, Washington; occasionally found on the coast north of Santa Cruz in protected low-intertidal areas such as under overhangs..."

The species name, "incubans," refers to a fascinating reproductive behavior.  This anemone broods its young internally then releases fully tentacled young through pores at the tips of the tentacles!



We've found two individuals locally during the past year, with the most recent sighting just a few weeks ago.  Here's a picture from the field:


3 comments:

Hollis said...

Absolutely beautiful!

Sarah Ann said...

Oh my goodness, that is awesome.
Sarah Ann

Anonymous said...

kind of like a Georgia O'Keefe at the seaside !! c