All anemones, all the time

While much of America was glued to the television watching a football game, I went out to the intertidal at Davenport Landing to do some collecting and escape from Super Bowl mania. The Seymour Center and I have a standing agreement that some animals--small hermit crabs and certain turban snails, for example--are always welcome, which gave me an excuse to look for them. I also needed to pick up some algae for labs that I'm teaching later this week, so it was an easy decision to be alone in nature for a couple of hours.

As usual, I was easily distracted by the animals, especially the anemones. They are simply the most photogenic animals in the rocky intertidal. And we have an abundance of beautiful anemones in our region; I feel very lucky to photograph them where they live. I would like to share them with you.

First up, Anthopleura sola:

Anthopleura sola 7 February 2016 © Allison J. Gong
Anthopleura sola specimen #1
7 February 2016
© Allison J. Gong
Anthopleura sola 7 February 2016 © Allison J. Gong
Anthopleura sola specimen #2
7 February 2016
© Allison J. Gong

Second species, Anthopleura xanthogrammica:

Anthopleura xanthogrammica 7 February 2016 © Allison J. Gong
Anthopleura xanthogrammica
7 February 2016
© Allison J. Gong
One large and one small Anthopleura xanthogrammica 7 February 2016 © Allison J. Gong
One large and one small Anthopleura xanthogrammica
7 February 2016
© Allison J. Gong

Along the central California coast we have four species of anemones in the genus Anthopleura. Two of them, A. xanthogrammica and A. sola, are large and solitary; in other words, they do not clone. The geographic ranges of these two species overlap in central California. Anthopleura xanthogrammica has a more northern distribution, from Alaska down to southern California, while A. sola typically lives from central California into Mexico.

I've seen these congeneric anemones living side-by-side in tidepools at Natural Bridges and at Davenport. Here is a photograph from yesterday. The animals are almost exactly the same size, and are separated by about 30 cm. Can you tell which is which?

So, which is which? 7 February 2016 © Allison J. Gong
So, which is which?
7 February 2016
© Allison J. Gong

The pièce de résistance yesterday was a treasure trove of Anthopleura artemisia anemones. I'd seen and photographed them several times before, and always appreciated the variety of colors they come in. For some reason, though, yesterday they really caught my eye. I had a number of "Wow!" moments.

Anthopleura artemisia specimen #1. 7 February 2016 © Allison J. Gong
Anthopleura artemisia specimen #1.
7 February 2016
© Allison J. Gong
Anthopleura artemisia specimen #2 7 February 2016 © Allison J. Gong
Anthopleura artemisia specimen #2
7 February 2016
© Allison J. Gong
Anthopleura artemisia specimen #3 7 February 2016 © Allison J. Gong
Anthopleura artemisia specimen #3
7 February 2016
© Allison J. Gong

Sometimes two colors are combined:

Anthopleura artemisia specimen #4 7 February 2016 © Allison J. Gong
Anthopleura artemisia specimen #4
7 February 2016
© Allison J. Gong

Stunning, isn't it?

But this next anemone is unlike any I've ever seen before. Get a load of this:

Anthopleura artemisia specimen #5 7 February 2016 © Allison J. Gong
Anthopleura artemisia specimen #5
7 February 2016
© Allison J. Gong

These stark white tentacles are new to me. The anemone measured about 4 cm across. In every other aspect it looks like A. artemisia, and I'm almost entirely certain that's what it is. It does feel special to me. I will hopefully be able to keep an eye on this individual and see if its colorless tentacles are a temporary or long-term condition. And now that my eye has been primed to see the colors that A. artemisia comes in, I may notice more unusual color morphs.

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