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Metridium farcimen - Giant plumed anemone

Geographic range:
Alaska to southern California

Key features:
Large to one meter tall with lobed oral disc fringed with short fine tentacles; usually white but may be pinkish or tan-brown.

Similar species:
Metridium senile --

bay (rocky shore), Continental shelf, exposed rocky shore, kelp forest, protected rocky shore
Metridium farcimen - Giant plumed anemone image


Primary common name:
Giant plumed anemone
  ITIS code:
Synonymous name(s):
Metridium giganteum
General grouping:
Corals and anemones

Geographic Range
Range description:
It ranges from Alaska to southern California
Northern latitude extent:
  Southern latitude extent:
East longitude extent:
  West longitude extent:

Intertidal Height
Lowest intertidal height:
0 meters OR 0 feet
  Highest intertidal height:
0 meters OR 0 feet
Intertidal height notes:

Subtidal Depth Range
Minimum depth:
0 meters OR 0 feet
  Maximum depth:
0 meters OR 0 feet
Subtidal depth notes:

bay (rocky shore), Continental shelf, exposed rocky shore, kelp forest, protected rocky shore
Habitat notes:
M. farcimen can be found in both subtidal and low intertidal zones, including jetties, wharfs, harbours, breakwaters and floats. When found on wharfs, anemone com-munities of dense distribution are common. Larger specimens are often found solitarily in the subtidal. Found on pilings and docks in bays and on rocks and shells on the outer coast, down to a few hundred meters depth.

Relative abundance:
In a study of species abundance in Alaska, M. farcimen was the most com-monly observed macro-invertebrate species and typically occurred on boulders, high-relief rock, and rock pavement, often in association with Primnoa spp.

Species Description
General description:
The Giant plumose anemone, Metridium farcimen, is typically large, solitary, and subtidal. Oral disk is lobed and covered with short tentacles that may number in the hundreds; commonly white, uncommonly salmon, brown, or speckled. The species name farcimen, refers to its sausage-like appearance, as “farcimen” means; with stuffing or sausage. Animals in the subtidal, can often reach a 25cm crown diameter and a 50cm height. However, larger specimens have been reported up to a meter in height. Tentacles which line the mouth of the oral disk, very numerous, quite fine, short and slender. Tentacle coloration is typically transparent when the tentacles are expanded and take the color of the column when contracted.
Distinctive features:
Anemones are rich in nematocysts (stinging cells) that are used to both defend and attack. The normal tentacles contain those cells used for both defense and feeding. In large colo-nies of Plumose Anemones, the species which borders the colony develops a different type of tentacle called "catch" tentacles. Those tentacles, which are used to deter non-cloned anemones, take around 9 weeks to develop, and may number on the order of 19 on an individual organism. If "catch" tentacles, containing an alternate type of nematocysts, touches another anenome from a different colony, a stinging tip breaks off, releasing the separate set of complementary nematocysts. The technique is implemented to repel intruding anemones. These tentacles can expand up to a length of 12cm.
Height: up to 1 m (40 in.) Crown diameter: up to 25 cm (10 in.)

Natural History
General natural history:
The animals generally appear motionless, but time-lapse movies show slow rhythms of expansion and contraction. The body can assume a wide variety of shapes. As in other anemones, the fluid in the gut, under positive pressure from the muscles of the body wall, act as a hydraulic skeleton, providing internal support. Additional support, along with elasticity and extensibility, is provided by the mesoglea or middle of the body wall, which contains an amorphous polymer network of collagen. An anemone crawls slowly along the substratum by muscular waves at its base. This distinctive large, solitary, subtidal species that lives on pilings in bays and on rocks and shells off the coast was once considered to be an ecotype of M. senile. Unlike regular feeding tentacles, catch tentacles have a complement of nematocysts, and as many as 19 may be present in a single anemone. These tentacles are capable of great expansion, and can stretch over 12 cm to explore their surroundings, extending and re-tracting rhythmically. But the catch tentacles don't respond to food or clonemates, but if even a regular feeding tentacle of metridium makes contact with another anemone or non-clonemate, it sticks and stings and the stinging tips break off. The at-tacked individual may contract, bend, or move away, and after some time, tissue damage can be seen at the site of the clinging tentacle tip. Anemones in the center of a clone usually bear no catch tentacles, as these develop in a period of about 9 weeks if moved out to the border of the clone, or otherwise placed in contact with non clonemates. When a border metridium armed with catch tentacles encounters a green anemone, it may lash it repeatedly, causing it to contract or move away. The catch tentacles are clearly used for aggression against non clonemates and anemones of other species. Plumose Anemone symbiosis is an area where little research has been done. Possible commensal behaviors could be similar to other anemones that have certain fish (e.g Clown Fish), which use the anemone. Metridium anemones are related to corals and jellyfish, are part of the Phylum Cnidaria. Cnidaria have in common a feeding method that uses specialized stinging cells in their tentacles, to stun and capture their prey. Scientists believe that metridium's broad plumes form current eddies, which aid in feeding.
The Plumose Anemone has few predators. Nudibranchs feed on small anenomes, while in Puget Sound (Washington State) a sea star Dermasterias imbricata has been found to feed on larger anemones.
Both the small and large anemones feed primarily on zooplankton, using their stinging tentacles to catch the prey. The feeding appears non-selective. Scraps of fish, squid and small benthic (subtidal) organisms are also taken.

Feeding behavior
Feeding behavior(s):
Omnivore, Sessile suspension feeder
Feeding behavior notes:
Sea anemones are sit-and-wait predators, voracious ones if you are living in the plank-ton. They all have in common, a feeding method which uses specialized stinging cells in the tentacles, to stun and capture their prey. Scientists believe that metridium's broad plumes form currents and eddies, which aid in their feed-ing.
Anemone's reproduce both asexually and sexually. Asexual reproduction occurs as the anemone moves about, leaving little sections of its pedal disk (base) behind, in a process described as pedal laceration. Dense colonies can form in this manner, with the pedal disks forming small cloned rounded anemones that feed and grow. Sexual reproduction occurs during broadcast spawning processes where the males release sperm with wedged-shaped heads, stimulating females to release their eggs. Eggs are about 0.1mm in diameter with a pinkish colouration. External fertilization occurs, when the zygote divides to form a planula larva that swims in planktonic form. Planulae settle and later metamorphose into young anemones.

Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary:
Gulf of Farallones National Marine Sanctuary:
Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary:
M. farcimen cannot survive where there is industrial pollution, sewage, sludge, or anoxic conditions, although they may tolerate high levels of pollution from boats and harbors. M. farcimen provides habitat for several commercially important groundfishes and have been identified as habitat areas of particular concern by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.
Listing Status:
Monitoring Trends:
Carlton, J.T. 2007.
The Light and Smith Manual, 4th edition
Intertidal Invertebrates from Central California to Oregon
University of California Press. 1001 p.

Meinkoth, N.A. 1998. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Seashore Creatures. A.A. Knopf, New York, NY. 813 p.

Morris, R.H., D.P Abbott, and E.C. Haderlie. 1980. Intertidal Invertebrates of California. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California. 690 p.

Ricketts, E. F., J. Calvin, and J.W. Hedgpeth. 1985. Between Pacific tides. Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA. 652 p.

Dougal, Ben February 2002. Lester B. Pearson College BC
Accessed 8/29/09 for Giant plumose anemone

Data supplied by SIMoN Sanctuary Integrated Monitoring Network
Anthopleura xanthogrammica - Giant green anemone

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