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Cryptodendrum adhaesivum

Sticky Anemone



Fact Sheet



Physical Description



Life History & Behavior

Feeding Behavior


Reproduction and Development


Response to Light Changes

Anatomy & Physiology

Circulatory and Excretory Systems

Defense Mechanisms: Cnidocytes and Cnidae

Digestive System

Nervous and Sensory Systems

Skeleton and Musculature

Evolution and Systematics

Biogeographic Distribution

Conservation and Threats

References and Links


A well-known association that commonly occurs on coral reefs is the symbiosis between sea anemones and small, brightly colored fish known as ‘clownfish’. Symbiosis occurs when two species living in close association both benefit and are able to coexist as a result of the arrangement and concessions they have both made1. There are ten species of sea anemone known to host clown fishes, and Cryptodendrum adhaesivum is one of them2.

C. adhaesivum
forms a symbiosis with the clownfish Amphiprion clarkii, which seldom ventures far from the tentacles. Other species that may be found living within the tentacles of C. adhaesivum include juveniles of the three spot damsel Dascyllus trimaculatus, commensal porcelain crabs of the genera Neopetrolisthes and Petrolisthes and some shrimp species of the genera Thor and Periclimenes3. 

Sea anemones have a well-developed defensive system that includes stinging tentacles (see Defense Mechanisms). However, species living with the anemone are unaffected and are protected from larger predators that are unable to get past the stinging tentacles. Fishes in particular are capable of developing a mucous surface coating when settling in a new host anemone after gradual contact with the stinging tentacles, and this eventually allows them to be tolerant of the stings. Anemones are also known to benefit from protection from predators as a result of the defensive activities of fishes1.

C. adhaesivum
is also known to harbor endodermal symbiotic algae known as zooxanthellae4,5 which can photosynthesize (see Feeding Behavior). The establishment of zooxanthellae in an individual is not consistent. It has been noted to occur through maternal inheritance in some species of anemone, but not in others (even within the same genus, such as Anthopleura). In species where each generation does not inherit the zooxanthellae, it has been suggested that this occurs via ingestion and phagocytosis of viable algae from the egesta of other anemones6,7 and in the faeces of anemone predators8. It has further been suggested that ammonia and free amino acids from a potential sea anemone host elicit chemosensory behavior of motile zooxanthellae and hence attract them9.

1Hutchings, Kingsford & Hoegh-Guldberg 2008
2Fautin & Allen 1992
3Erhardt & Knop 2005
4Wallace & Richards 2007
5Dunn 1981
6Smith 1939
7Steele 1977
8Muller-Parker 1984a
9Fitt 1984