Bestiary :: Fear my Anenome
If I could be said to have a hobby, it would have to be ‘emergent properties.’ Or maybe it is making gargoyles out of beach-shells. I can’t quite remember. Whatever, I was excited to be given the results of recent studies on sea anemone colonies. It turns out that those poisonous little blobs of jelly have a highly stratified social order. Coordinated into ‘armies’, colonies have distinct specialised ‘castes’; warriors, scouts, reproductives and other types. They engage in long-term tactical struggles for territory with each other.
You’re thinking what I’m thinking aren’t you?
And you’re right! With Inky away, we have to do something about security. I envisage crack corps of anemone warriors guarding our boundaries. Ferociously wiggling their tentacles at intruders.
And, as a bonus, they could provide garden lighting at night. We’d be saving money by employing them.
David J. Ayre from the University of Wollongong and Rick Grosberg from UC Davis have been studying two colonies of Anthopleura elegantissima. These anemones lives in large colonies of genetically identical clones on boulders around the tide line. Where two colonies meet they form a distinct boundary zone. Anemones that contact an animal from another colony will fight, hitting each other with special tentacles that leave patches of stinging cells stuck to their opponent.
Apart from providing MoD with new security measures, the importance of this study is that it shows very complex, sophisticated, and coordinated behaviors can emerge at the level of the group, even when the group members are very simple organisms with nothing resembling a brain, Grosberg said.
Anemone Armies Battle to a Standoff >>