2023 Recipient – Lisa Wolf

The sea anemone Handactis nutrix lives in close association with various species of native and endemic brown macroalgae such as species of Cystophora, Carpophyllum, Sargassum and Lessonia. This symbiotic association is found all throughout New Zealand, in particular around the south coast of Wellington. Within my master’s thesis, I am aiming to define the sea anemones abundance and host specificity, as well as nutritional interactions between the sea anemone and ladder weed (Cystophora scalaris), one of their most preferred host species found around Wellington’s south coast. With help of stable isotope analyses at NIWA, it was possible to trace nitrogen and carbon. First results show considerable transfer of nitrogen from the sea anemone to the seaweed. As nitrogen is generally known to be the most limiting nutrient for a seaweed’s growth, this study opens a new area of research relating to enhanced fitness, resilience, and the biogeographic distribution of NZ seaweeds and its episymbiotic sea anemones.

During my abundance surveys at Taputeranga Marine Reserve (TMR), I found more species of sea anemones that are living in similar associations, such as the unknown species (photo below) which is found on the stipes of Lessonia variegata.

With support of the Kevin Smith Memorial Scholarship, I was able to undertake extensive surveys around the south coast of Wellington, including TMR, during all seasons.

Left: Carpophyllum maschalocarpum with associated Handactis nutrix on Paua at TMR; Middle: stereomicroscopic images of the brooding anemone, Handactis nutrix, with developing brood in its pouch; Right: Handactis nutrix on Cystophora scalaris at Moa Point

Left and Middle: Handactis nutrix on Lessonia variegata at TMR; Right: Transect line in the shallows around Taputeranga Island.

Undescribed anemone species on Lessonia variegata around Taputeranga Island.

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Photos Lisa Wolf