Overview

Brief Summary

The Magnificent Anemone, Heteractis magnifica, also known as the Ritteri Anemone, is a sea anemone that lives attached to a solid surface with much of its base exposed in marine Indo-Pacific reefs.  It prefers warm waters between 24-32 degrees C. with good flow but shallow enough that the symbiotic green algae in its tentacles can photosynthesize (1-50 m. depth).  It is a large anemone that grows in various shapes and colors (usually tan, red, pink, purple, orange, blue or green) to sizes up to three feet in diameter.  In some locations, large colonies of individuals, presumably clones, form beds of H. magnifica in shallow water; this species is usually solitary at greater depths.  Like the three other species in genus Heteractis, its long tentacles end in a characteristic bulbous tip, which contains the stinging nematocyst cells it uses to paralyze its vertebrate and invertebrate prey.  Heteractis magnifica, as well as the other species in family Stichodactylidae (nine species total) are best known as clownfish anemone, because they commonly form symbiotic relationships with fish mostly of the genus Amphiprion.  Although in captivity they associate with multiple species of anemone fish, in the wild they typically host only a particular species, depending on their location. The Magnificent Anemone also forms associations with shrimp, crab and other invertebrate species.  This anemone is common in the aquarium trade but is notoriously challenging to keep healthy.

Other common names: Bulb-Tip Anemone, Purple Base Anemone, Maroon Anemone, and Yellow Tipped Long Tentacle Anemone.

(Fautin and Allen1992; Guck 2004; Newcomb and Fink 2004; Wikipedia 2013)

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WhyReef - Lifestyle

Like jellyfish and coral, the magnificent sea anemone is a cnidarian. That means it has a sac-like body with a mouth and tentacles on top. On the bottom, it has pedal feet, which it uses to attach itself to rocks or dead coral. But the magnificent sea anemone does not always stick to one spot; it sometimes swims to new places by flexing its body in a certain direction.

But it can’t just get by on its own; it lives in a close relationship with a group of clownfish. The clownfish have a protective slime layer that allows them to hide in the anemone’s stinging tentacles without getting hurt. In return, the anemone gets to eat food that clownfish drop, and they protect it from predators. Because the clownfish and the magnificent sea anemone both help each other get by, their relationship is mutualistic.

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Comprehensive Description

Biology: Nematocysts

More info
LocationImageCnidae TypeRange of
Lengths (m)
Range of
Widths (m)
nNState
Dunn D. F., 1981
Actinopharynx
basitrichs  20 - 30.8  x  2.5 - 4.1  90 / 7 Unfired
microbasic p-mastigophores  32 - 30.8  x (5.3)  6 - 7.4  16 / 4 Unfired
spirocysts  16 - 28.8  x  2.4 - 4.1  8 / 2 Unfired
Column
basitrichs  15 - 20  x  2.2 - 3.4  66 / 6 Unfired
basitrichs  27.1 - 31.2  x  2.9 - 3.3  (3.8) 4 / 2 Unfired
microbasic p-mastigophores  27.2 - 38.5  x (4.8)  5.8 - 8  51 / 6 Unfired
Filaments
basitrichs  14.4 - 23  x  2.4 - 3.4  19 / 5 Unfired
basitrichs  23 - 35.9  x  2.7 - 4  (5.1) 64 / 7 Unfired
microbasic p-mastigophores (16)  20.5 - 37.7  (40) x  4.1 - 6.6  (7.4) 49 / 7 Unfired
spirocysts  19.7 - 32.8  x  2.9 - 3.3  4 / 4 Unfired
Tentacles
basitrichs  15.2 - 33.7  x  2.4 - 4.1  101 / 8 Unfired
spirocysts  18.4 - 32.8  (37) x  2.5 - 4.4  79 / 8 Unfired
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WhyReef - Fun Facts

Many people think the magnificent sea anemone is a plant, but it is actually an animal and a predator! When animals it eats brush up against its tentacles, it shoots thousands of stinging cells, or nematocysts, to poison its prey! Then it brings the defenseless animal into its mouth and eats it!

The magnificent sea anemone uses its mouth for eating but also for getting rid of waste! Unlike humans, it doesn’t have a gut that goes all the way through its body.

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Distribution

Geographic Range

Heteractis magnifica is found only in the tropical regions of the Indo-Pacific Ocean. Occurring from the Red Sea to Samoa, H. magnifica lives in marine waters of South East Asia, Northern Australia, and the Western Pacific Regions. From Australia, the range of H. magnifica extends all the way to the Ryukyu Islands.

Biogeographic Regions: oriental (Native ); australian (Native ); indian ocean (Native ); pacific ocean (Native )

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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Heteractis magnifica has the basic morphology of most anemones, living its entire life in the polyp form (looking like a cylindrical column with tentacles). This species has a sticky foot on a pedal disc, and an oral disc which contains the mouth and surrounding tentacles. Heteractis magnifica is the second largest in size of all sea anemones. The oral disc reaches 1 m in diameter or can be as small as 1.25 cm. Typically H. magnifica is between 300 and 500 mm in diameter. The foot, which is used to anchor the animal to various hard surfaces, is also larger than most anemones. The oral disc of an anemone is a flat to slightly curved structure with a mouth in the center, used for both feeding and producing waste. The oral disc can be yellow, brown, or green and is often slightly elevated so that the mouth protrudes out.

Many tentacles surround the oral disc; these are located within 20 to 30 mm of the mouth. The lower part of the tentacles closest to the mouth is the same color as the oral disc (usually shades of brown), but the distal portion of each tentacle can vary in color. Tentacles can range in color from red, pink, purple, orange, and green, but are most commonly tannish. Tentacles are about 75 mm long, and some are branched. Heteractis magnifica has characteristic swollen or bulb-like tips on the finger shaped tentacles. Within these tips are cnidocytes, which contain many nematocysts, structures for delivering toxins use in capturing food and defense.

Adult and baby magnificent anemones are very similar in physical appearance. Magnificent anemones lack skeletons and can grow large when nutrient levels are high, but they can shrink when nutrients are scarce. Members of this species can also look like a ball if they contract their tentacles so that only a tuft of tentacles, if any, remain visible.

Range length: .014 to 1 m.

Average length: .4 m.

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; heterothermic ; radial symmetry ; venomous

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike

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Ecology

Habitat

Heteractis magnifica is found in marine reefs ranging from 1 to 50 meters deep. It prefers warm waters ranging from 24 degrees C to 32 degrees C. This species resides in clear waters with a strong current. Abundance and colonial or solitary behavior correlates with depth; those that are closer to the surface are solitary and smaller, while those that are deeper tend to form colonies. Animals found to the leeward of the prevailing swell of the water tend to be in denser populations than those in more exposed marine locations.

Range depth: 50 to 1 m.

Average depth: 25 m.

Habitat Regions: tropical ; saltwater or marine

Aquatic Biomes: reef

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Depth range based on 2 specimens in 2 taxa.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 1 sample.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 0 - 0
  Temperature range (°C): 27.180 - 27.180
  Nitrate (umol/L): 0.363 - 0.363
  Salinity (PPS): 35.081 - 35.081
  Oxygen (ml/l): 4.899 - 4.899
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.260 - 0.260
  Silicate (umol/l): 4.210 - 4.210
 
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Depth range based on 21 specimens in 1 taxon.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 15 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 1.05 - 20
  Temperature range (°C): 25.121 - 27.897
  Nitrate (umol/L): 0.061 - 0.335
  Salinity (PPS): 34.598 - 40.360
  Oxygen (ml/l): 4.603 - 4.785
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.084 - 0.258
  Silicate (umol/l): 1.386 - 4.102

Graphical representation

Depth range (m): 1.05 - 20

Temperature range (°C): 25.121 - 27.897

Nitrate (umol/L): 0.061 - 0.335

Salinity (PPS): 34.598 - 40.360

Oxygen (ml/l): 4.603 - 4.785

Phosphate (umol/l): 0.084 - 0.258

Silicate (umol/l): 1.386 - 4.102
 
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Depth range based on 1 specimen in 1 taxon.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 0 - 0
 
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Depth range based on 1 specimen in 1 taxon.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 1 sample.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 1.5 - 1.5
  Temperature range (°C): 28.774 - 28.774
  Nitrate (umol/L): 0.050 - 0.050
  Salinity (PPS): 34.598 - 34.598
  Oxygen (ml/l): 4.544 - 4.544
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.181 - 0.181
  Silicate (umol/l): 1.149 - 1.149
 
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Depth range based on 2 specimens in 1 taxon.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 1 sample.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 7.5 - 50
  Temperature range (°C): 25.506 - 25.506
  Nitrate (umol/L): 0.938 - 0.938
  Salinity (PPS): 35.123 - 35.123
  Oxygen (ml/l): 4.578 - 4.578
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.292 - 0.292
  Silicate (umol/l): 5.791 - 5.791

Graphical representation

Depth range (m): 7.5 - 50
 
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Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

Heteractis magnifica is carnivorous, feeding on small fish, shrimp, isopods, amphipods, mussels, sea urchins, and plankton. This species also absorbs sulfur, nitrogen, and other essential nutrients for growth from the waste of the symbiotic clownfish that live within the tentacles of the anemone. The clownfish also occasionally carries chunks of food to its host.

The anemones use their stinging nematocysts to capture prey that touch them, and then bring them in to the oral disc to digest. They also contain symbiotic algae that produce glucose as a product of photosynthesis, which the magnificent anemone uses.

Animal Foods: fish; mollusks; aquatic or marine worms; aquatic crustaceans; other marine invertebrates

Plant Foods: phytoplankton

Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats terrestrial vertebrates, Piscivore , Eats non-insect arthropods, Molluscivore , Eats other marine invertebrates); planktivore

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Associations

Ecosystem Roles

Magnificent sea anemones are prey on fish and invertebrates.

Heteractis magnifica are hosts to many types of clownfish that are resistant to the toxins produced by the anemone. This mutualism benefits both animals, because the clownfish chase away predators of the anemone and bring the anemone food, while gaining protection within the tentacles of the anemone for themselves and their young. Some shrimp also live beneath the oral disc of the anemone, but are not resistant to the toxins. They clean the underside of the magnificent anemone.

Ecosystem Impact: creates habitat

Mutualist Species:

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Predation

Anemones have stinging cells called nematocysts that keep away most predators. The protein toxins that are released are ichthyotoxic; if marine or freshwater fish are exposed to .5 micrograms/mL of the toxin, they die within 2 hours.

Magnificent sea anemones are hosts to many symbiotic clownfish, which chase away any nibbling predators, especially bristle worms. The clownfish are immune to the nematocysts and gain protection from the anemones' stinging tentacles.

Known Predators:

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Biological Associations

More info
Algal symbionts
Zooxanthellae
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WhyReef - Menu

The magnificent sea anemone will snap up almost anything that floats by. Its often eats small crabs, shrimps and fish. Since it only eats other animals, it is a carnivore.
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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

If H. magnifica is attacked, it produces a chemical that is released into the water to warn other anemones that a predator is in the area. The anemone then contracts its tentacles into a ball form for protection.

Heteractis magnifica has no ears, eyes, or centralized nervous system. This anemone has nerves in the body wall that are able to communicate with other parts of the body and sense the environment around it. The species possesses three separate nerve "nets" that determine contraction of tentacles in response to the environment. The TCNN and SS1 pathways represent the fast and slow responses of tentacles to mechanical stimulation (for TCNN) and chemical stimulation for the SS1 pathway. Both nerve nets excite the ectodermal muscles via the stimulation of the multipolar nerve net that expands the body of the anemone. The SS1 nerve net, also called the ectodermal slow system, seems to also be responsible for the pre-feeding response (opening of the mouth), and the escape response.

Communication Channels: chemical

Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical

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Life Cycle

Development

When anemones reproduce sexually, their fertilized eggs develop into a planula larvae which settles on the ocean floor and develops into a polyp. When anemones reproduce asexually, they form new anemones directly from the parent as an exact replica.

Development - Life Cycle: metamorphosis

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

The longevity of Heteractis magnifica in the wild is unknown, but estimated that some of these anemones are hundreds of years old. In captivity, the longest lifespan is 80 years.

Range lifespan

Status: captivity:
80 (high) years.

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Reproduction

There are no data on mating systems in Heteractis magnifica.

Mating System: polygynandrous (promiscuous)

Heteractis magnifca can reproduce sexually or asexually. In sexual reproduction, the male releases his sperm first to stimulate the female to release her eggs. This external fertilization leads to the development of a ciliated planula larvae. Asexual reproduction can occur by budding, binary fission, or pedal laceration (when part of the pedal disc breaks off to form a new anemone). Most asexual reproduction occurs in the winter. The presence of the symbiotic clown fish Amphiprion chrysopterus can increase the amount of asexual reproduction and general growth. Anemones found with two A. chrysopterus species had faster fission rates than those without this symbiotic species.

Breeding interval: It is not known how often H. magnifica breeds.

Breeding season: H. magnifica reproduces asexually more frequently in the winter.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; year-round breeding ; sexual ; asexual ; fertilization (External ); broadcast (group) spawning

There is no parental involvement in the sexual or asexual reproduction process.

Parental Investment: pre-fertilization (Provisioning)

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Conservation

Conservation Status

Heteractis magnifica is not listed on the IUCN Red List, CITES appendices, or the US Endangered Species Act list.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: no special status

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Threats

WhyReef - Threats

The magnificent sea anemone’s stinging cells wouldn’t kill humans, but they are very painful! People try to sell the magnificent sea anemone to aquariums, but they don’t make good aquarium animals.

Reefs are in danger, and that means so is the home of the magnificent sea anemone!

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Other than its capacity to sting, Heteractis magnifica has no adverse effects on humans.

Negative Impacts: injures humans (bites or stings)

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Heteractis magnifica is the most photographed species of anemone and is popular as an aquarium pet.

A new protein "hmGFP" was cloned from the tentacles of H. magnifica. The properties of this protein were homologous to that of the green fluorescent protein (GFP), and it has shown promising possibilities in biotechnology research.

Positive Impacts: pet trade ; research and education

  • Tu, H., Q. Xiong, S. Zhen, X. Zhong, L. WuPeng, H. Chen, X. Jiang, W. Liu, W. Yang, J. Wei, M. Dong, W. Wu, A. Xu. 2003. A naturally enhanced green fluorescent protein from magnificent sea anemone (Heteractis magnifica) and its functional analysis. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, 301 (4): 879-885.
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Wikipedia

Heteractis magnifica

Heteractis magnifica, also known by the common names magnificent sea anemone or Ritteri anemone, is a species of sea anemone found in the Indo-Pacific area; it can grow up to 1 m (3 ft) in diameter in the wild. It can be kept in aquaria, but is considered one of the most challenging species to keep healthy. H. magnifica consumes both vertebrates and invertebrates, including fish and crustaceans.

H. magnifica with a pair of Maldives anemonefish and juvenile threespot dascyllus

It is often found in association with anemonefish, or clownfish, such as the cinnamon clownfish (Amphiprion melanopus), Clark's anemonefish (A. clarkii), common clownfish (A. ocellaris), black-finned anemonefish (A. nigripes), true clownfish (A. percula), and the pink skunk clownfish (A. perideraion). Juvenile threespot dascyllus fish (Dascyllus trimaculatus) also commonly associate with this sea anemone.

H. magnifica was featured in the Pixar Animations film Finding Nemo.

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