Starburst anemone

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Anthopleura sola
Sea anemone in tidepools.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Cnidaria
Class: Anthozoa
Subclass: Zoantharia
Order: Actiniaria
Suborder: Nyantheae
Infraorder: Thenaria
Family: Actiniidae
Genus: Anthopleura
Species: A. sola
Binomial name
Anthopleura sola
(Brandt, 1835)
In a California tide pool, Anthopleura sola fight for territory using their white stinging acrorhagi.

Anthopleura sola, commonly known as the starburst anemone, is a species of sea anemone of the family Actiniidae. A. sola was previously considered the solitary form of the common aggregating anemone Anthopleura elegantissima, but was identified as a separate species in 2000.[1]


A. sola is a solitary anemone that averages 12 cm but can grow up to 25 cm wide, much larger than A. elegantissima.[2] The column is pale green to white in color and is twice as long as its width when extended. The column has numerous sticky protuberances (verrucae) arranged in vertical rows to which gravel and shell fragments adhere. The oral disc is radially striped and has five rings of thick, pointed feeding tentacles. Tentacles are pale with the tips colored in pink, blue or lavender.[3]

A. sola can be differentiated from A. elegantissima by its larger size and usual solitary form. It is differentiated from Anthopleura xanthogrammica by the coloration of the tentacle tips, striped oral disk, and vertical rows of verrucae.

The color of the anemone is partly caused by symbiotic Zooxanthellae in the gastrodermal layer. This species of anemone reproduces sexually.

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The starburst anemone is found in the north west Pacific Ocean. In the United States it occurs between central California and Baja California. It lives in the lower intertidal zone in rocky habitats, often in the shelter of cracks and crevices. When the tide is out it is often concealed by shell fragments and other particles that adhere to it.[3]

Territorial defense[edit]

Anthopleura sola aggressively defends its territory from other anemones which are genetically dissimilar. When A. sola encounters a different genetic colony, the anemones extend specialized tentacles (called acrorhagi). The white tips of acrorhagi have a concentration of stinging cells (nematocytes) and are used solely to deter other colonies from encroaching on their space. The nematocysts sting the ectoderm of the invader, causing tissue necrosis and forcing the competitor to move away. The similar aggregating anemone (Anthopleura elegantissima) also possesses acrorhagi.


  1. ^ Pearse, V. and L. Francis (2000) "Anthopleura sola, a new species, solitary sibling species to the aggregating sea anemone, A. elegantissima (Cnidaria: Anthozoa: Actiniaria: Actiniidae)." Proc Biol Soc Washington 113: 596-608
  2. ^ "Anthopleura sola". February 2008. 
  3. ^ a b Anthopleura sola Pearse and Francis, 2000 WallaWalla. Retrieved 2011-11-14.