Giant plumose anemone: Now you see it, now you don’t!

Giant plumose anemone

The first time I saw this giant plumose anemone I thought, What the heck is that? Most of the sea anemones I’ve seen have their tentacles out in all their colorful glory ready and waiting for an easy meal to swim by. So I started asking around and it turns out that sea anemones do bring their tentacles in and take on this blob style shape when they are eating.

Yet, this sea anemone always looks like this! Surely, it can’t be eating all the time…so why is it doing that? To this question I received many shrugs. Maybe it just prefers a more introspective lifestyle?

Staff at Cabrillo Marine Aquarium found this giant plumose anemone living on a long lost football in the ocean. So they brought both the football and sea anemone back to the Aquarium and now everyone can see this interesting combination in the Kelp Forest tank located in the main Exhibit Hall.

Giant plumose anemones are also commonly referred to as white-plumed anemones, which is very confusing since they come in a few colors including white, brown, salmon, orange and tan. (Apparently white is the most common, but if you are interested in learning more, it’s best to search with the scientific name Metridium farcimen.) These anemones can grow up to 39 inches tall, hence the name “giant” plumose anemone, but the average height tends to be about 20 inches.

Giant plumose anemone

I’ve been watching this sea anemone for a very long time and every single time I stop in to see what it’s up to, it’s all closed up. Then finally, I stopped in one morning and it was open! What a beautiful sight; it’s hard to believe it’s the same anemone, but the football proves it. Fortunately, I captured the moment on camera because I haven’t seen it open since.

Giant plumose anemones are found along the west coast of the United States from Alaska to California. Some hang out in shallow water on pilings and docks while others prefer much deeper water. In both places, they eat small invertebrates, zooplankton and other little yummy bits that stick to their tentacles. According to Wikipedia, one giant plumose anemone lived for 100 years in an aquarium and then only died because the equipment failed.

Hhmm, maybe staying in the closed position is similar to a meditative state that boosts health and longevity? Or maybe this giant plumose anemone is trying to look more and more like its preferred perch…a football.

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