Sea anemones are not plants, but predators that will attack and eat any small animal that strays within reach of their deadly tentacles. They come armed with tiny poisonous darts and powerful enzymes that can dissolve a small animal in just minutes.
Sea anemones are animals belonging to the phylum Cnidaria, along with the jellyfish, corals, and sea pens. They live in all oceans from the tidal shores to a depth of more than 10,000 meters and can range in size from one cm to almost two meters around. They can be seen attached to rocks, wharves, and even boats.
A sea anemone will use its tentacles to capture prey and to defend itself against predators. Their tentacles are covered with thousands of tiny stinging capsules called nematocysts. Each nematocyst contains a coiled hollow tubule. Some carry a tiny amount of poison that is capable of paralyzing or killing small fish and crustaceans.
When a small animal comes into contact with the Anemone, hundreds of these capsules open to fire their barbed tubules like darts. The anemone will sting and then hold its prey until it is subdued by the poison. It then moves the prey to its mouth and swallows it. Although there are many species that can inflict painful stings, none of Vancouver Island’s anemones are harmful to humans.
Many sea anemones can be found on rocky shores where there are tide pools in which they can remain submerged when the tide goes out. Anemones out of water will retract their tentacles into their bodies to prevent drying and may appear to be little more than blobs on rocks. In the water they are such beautiful little creatures to observe, they are quite fascinating.