Sunday, 12 June 2016

Carpet Anemone

Image: Nevit Dilmen
Nylon? That's just plastic. Wool? Keep it, sheep. Tiger pelt? I'd rather a live, trained tiger to do my bidding.

No. When it comes to carpets, it's teeny-tiny tentacles tickling my tootsies from now on.

Image: Samuel Chow
And it's all made possible by the Carpet Anemone and their unique interpretation of tentacle design. Instead of the long (or at least longish), slender (or at least slenderish) tentacles we've grown accustomed to in our sea anemone friends, Carpet Anemones have gone completely the other way.

They lay down a shag-pile rug of short, stubby tentacles that can be as little as a single centimetre (half an inch) long! The rest of the sea anemone, the column and the pedal disc, are all nestled in the rocks and sand below to anchor the carpet in place.

There are about 6 species of Carpet Anemone, all belonging to a genus called Stichodactyla. The name means 'row of fingers'. And there are many, many rows of those fingers. This ain't no normal tickles. This is high-octane, no holds barred tickling for the adrenaline junkie. You'll laugh so much it'll practically be exercise.


Carpet Anemones come in a wide range of colours, from bland browns, greys and olive greens to vibrant pinks, purples and blues. So whether you want to jazz it up or sombre it down, there's always a carpet that's just right for you.

There's even one for your doll's house!

Image: Ria Tan
Mini Carpet Anemone (S. tapetum)
That'll be the Mini Carpet Anemone (S. tapetum). It's tiny at just 2 to 6 cm (an inch or two) across.

Like most Carpet Anemones, the Mini variety has one of those huge, Indo-Pacific distributions that ranges from east Africa to Japan and Australia.

Image: James St. John
Sun Anemone (S. helianthus)
The Sun Anemone (S. helianthus) is different in that it lives in the Caribbean.

It reaches up to 15 cm (6 in) across, a lot bigger than the Mini Carpet Anemone but still modest as Carpets go.

Image: Michael arvedlund
Giant Carpet Anemone (S. gigantea)
Take for example the Giant Carpet Anemone (S. gigantea). It's another Indo-Pacific species and it can reach a very impressive 50 cm (20 in) across.

That's big. Extremely big for a sea anemone, and I guess that's why they called it the Giant Carpet Anemone. However, it turns out they were a little premature...

Image: Andrepiazza
Haddon's Carpet Anemone (S. haddoni)
Haddon's Carpet Anemone (S. haddoni) is even more gigantic than the Giant, potentially reaching 80 cm (2 ft 8 in) across

And it doesn't stop there!

Image: scotty
Mertens' Carpet Anemone (S. mertensii)
Mertens' Carpet Anemone (S. mertensii) is quite possibly the biggest sea anemone in the world! It can grow to over a metre (3.3 ft) across.

Yeah. They definitely should have kept their hands on that 'Giant' appellation a little longer.


Speaking of hands, be careful not to get tentacles all over your hands! Haddon's and the Giant Sea Anemones have tentacles that not only inflict somewhat painful stings, they're also remarkably sticky. Touch them with your fingers or say, the soles of your feet, and you'll find they get torn right off (the tentacles, I mean) in their eagerness to adhere to your skin.

It's a good thing you're not a small fish. Little creatures like that are ruthlessly stung and stuck, whereupon the whole carpet curls up to smother the poor blighter and bring it to a mouth that waits at the Carpet's centre.

Image: Claudine Lamothe
A mouth. It hungers
Mertens' Carpet Anemone is quite different, being on the 'gentle giant' side of things. The eat tiny specks of food and instead of the carpet of tentacles being sticky, the underside of the carpet is covered in little bumps and they're sticky. Being something like a metre across, presumably the sticky bumps let them keep a firm hold as they spread out over the flat, sandy areas of the seabed they prefer. That sounds like the perfect carpet. The other Carpet Anemones are more ruffled and folded up, and tend to live on more rocky ground, so perhaps it depends on the state of your floor.


Video: websterwb

Make sure you give your Carpet lots of sun because even the meat-eaters are packed full of symbiotic, single-celled organisms called zooxanthellae who photosynthesise and provide their hosts with free food. Don't forget that your Carpet needs an active social life to really thrive. They often play host to numerous shrimp, anemonefish and others who lounge among the tentacles having a grand old time in their shag pile house.

Phew! Quite a demanding carpet, all told. Those tickles don't come cheap!

7 comments:

TexWisGirl said...

quite pretty.

elfinelvin said...

Well, I was thinking about flooding the front room till you started talking about stings. Maybe if I spaced them out enough...

Joseph Jameson-Gould said...

@TexWisGirl: For sure!

@elfinelvin: Ha! Maybe they could be like patches of grass and you could have signs saying "keep off the carpets"

Susan A. said...

Shades of the Cushion Plant! https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e1/Azorella_macquariensis.jpg

Joseph Jameson-Gould said...

Hahaha! Wow, what a ridiculous thing!

Susan A. said...

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/06/Azorella_compacta_Phil._001.jpg/1024px-Azorella_compacta_Phil._001.jpg

Joseph Jameson-Gould said...

Good grief! That's so surreal. It's like a wizard was trying out a spell and it didn't go quite right.

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