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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 430:147-155 (2011)  -  DOI:

Common sea anemones Actinia equina are predominantly sessile intertidal scavengers

J. Davenport*, T. V. Moloney, J. Kelly

School of Biological, Earth & Environmental Sciences, University College Cork, Distillery Fields, North Mall, Cork, Ireland

ABSTRACT: Coelenteron contents of anemones Actinia equina collected from 2 shore heights (upper and lower) on 3 shores (exposed, semi-exposed and sheltered) in south-west Ireland were investigated in summer 2009. Diets of exposed and semi-exposed shore anemones were dominated by small mussels Mytilus edulis, mostly (>90%) with broken/cracked shells. The diet of anemones on the sheltered shore was dominated by insects, particularly on the upper shore. On all shores, larger food items (isopods, mussels, insects) were broken or fragmented; only small gammarid amphipods, crab megalopae, midges and mosquitos were found whole. Laboratory behavioural experiments showed that A. equina  were unselective at small prey size, but were limited by their own size, which restricted the maximum size of prey that could be ingested. Whole mussels were ingested, but egested alive after mean elapsed times of 0.75 to 1.95 h (depending upon anemone size). In contrast, mussels with cut adductor muscles, and incapable of shell valve closure, were fully digested, empty shells not being egested until 8.70 to 8.95 h after ingestion. Whole, live mealworms Tenebrio molitor were eaten by anemones, but were egested after a mean 1.30 h with no signs of digestion or fragmentation. Mealworms with mechanically perforated exoskeletons were held in the coelenterons of A. equina for a mean of 5.90 h and all soft tissues were digested. It was concluded that A. equina pre­dominantly ­scavenges on macrofaunal carrion, as well as preying upon smaller food items.

KEY WORDS: Sea anemones · Actinia equina · Scavengers · Carrion

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Cite this article as: Davenport J, Moloney TV, Kelly J (2011) Common sea anemones Actinia equina are predominantly sessile intertidal scavengers. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 430:147-155.

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