Remarkable New SWIMMING Tube Anemone Discovered In Dramatic Fashion

by | Jul 17, 2017 | Invertebrates, Science | 0 comments

NOAA’s Okeanos Explorer is off probing the depths around Johnston Atoll in the Central Pacific, and, if you happened to be watching their live feed last Friday, you would have witnessed one of the most remarkable discoveries in recent memory—the apparent first ever observation of swimming behavior in an adult tube anemone.

As reported by science co-lead Dr. Chris Kelly, this darkly tentacled creature has been observed on several previous dives and is recognized as being a particularly unusual and important undescribed species. While most every tube anemone (Order Ceriantharia) tends to live partially buried beneath sediments within a self-created tube, this unusual animal instead lives attached directly to solid substrates. This is a remarkable example of evolutionary and ecological convergence with the distantly related sea anemones of the Order Actiniaria, which typically attach themselves directly to the bottom via a muscular foot.

Given the significance of this find, an attempt was made to collect a specimen using the robotic arm of the ROV, but what happened next shocked everyone. Normally, when a ceriantharian is disturbed, it’s defensive response is to quickly retract within its tube… but what’s a tube anemone to do when it hasn’t a tube? The answer, it would seem, is to take flight! With a quick convulsion, the animal lowered its inky tentacles and lifted off from the benthos. Gently, it floated off into the abyss as the researchers and ROV pilots looked on helplessly, befuddled, bewildered by what had just transpired. Tube anemones are not supposed to swim, and, yet…

Come back…

  • Joe Rowlett

    Joe is classically trained in the zoological arts and sciences, with a particular focus on the esoterica of invertebrate taxonomy and evolution. He’s written for several aquarium publications and for many years lorded over the marinelife at Chicago’s venerable Old Town Aquarium. He currently studies prairie insect ecology at the Field Museum of Natural History and fish phylogenetics at the University of Chicago.


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