This rather unusual sea anemone is the largest species to be found in the shallow waters around NZ growing up to 200 mm in length and 100 mm wide. It is a native species which can also be found around Australia. It gets its name from its ability to move to new locations. Most anemones can move short distances along the surface they are attached to but the Wandering Anemone is very mobile, crawling or
drifting to new surfaces. It tends to be most active at night, extending its tentacles out into the surrounding water. Most of us see it as a rolled up ball of bubbles during the day and can be found most commonly around the rocky shore
The body of the anemone is column like, straight and cylindrical, and covered with many bubble-like sacks. It comes in a range of colours, from brownish orange, greys and mauves. Tucked away in the column are six circular rows of short, blunt tentacles which can be pale yellow, grey, brown or orange. Like most other anemones, these tentacles extend from the body and are filled with stinging cells which poison and capture passing prey. These victims are then passed to the anemone’s mouth which is found at the centre of the tentacle circles. Most food items are small planktonic organisms but the Wandering Anemone is large enough to catch and eat shellfish, crabs and fish.
The bubble-like sacks are filled with seawater. This makes it seem weightless in the sea, which helps the anemone to bob about when it’s on the move. It also makes the anemone feel like you are hardly touching anything when handled in the water. However, when picked
out of the water, the anemone suddenly feels heavy, the body becomes floppy and the sacks appear flaccid and deflated. This transformation often causes a squeal from participants at events with “touch-tanks”, making the Wandering Anemone a favourite among the rock-pool creatures. During the summer months the Island Bay Marine Education Centre opens every Sunday where you can see and gently feel for yourself how extraordinary this anemone is.
Life-Size Guide to the New Zealand Beach by Andrew Crowe
New Zealand Coastal Marine Invertebrates 1 – Edited by Steve de C. Cook