Condylactis giganteagiant Caribbean anenone

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Geographic Range

Condylactis gigantea is commonly found in the Caribbean--most specifically the West Indies--and the western Atlantic, ranging from southern Florida through the Florida keys. They can be seen growing in lagoons or on inner reefs as either individuals or loose groups, but never as colonies.

(Meinkoth 1981, Pet Warehouse 2000)

Habitat

The condy is usually found attached to hard objects in shallow water which experiences full-strength seawater most of the time. It is common around reefs in both "forereef" and lagoon areas as well as in turtle grass beds. The shape of the condy's body is related to the habitat in which it lives.

(Meinkoth 1981, Barnes 1987, Shick 1991)

Physical Description

The condy is approximately 6" (15 cm) high and 12" (30 cm) wide, making the disk diameter approximately 16" (40 cm) in nature. If captured, however, its disc is limited to a mere 4" (10 cm). The condy is a large, columnar animal. The condy can exibit a variety of colors: white, light blue, pink, organe, pale red, or light brown. The mouth is surrounded by 100 or more tentacles, each long and tapered with pink-, scarlet-, blue- or green-ringed tips. These tips are usually paler than the body itself. The basal disk is firmly attached to the substrate with the only "free-floating" portion being the tentacles.

(Meinkoth 1981, Pet Warehouse 2000, Willmer 1990)

Reproduction

The condy is a dioecious organism that is rarely hermaphroditic. There is no mode of asexual reproduction. Instead, the condy is a sexual species. Its primary mating season is spring, but it does have a tendancy to continue reproduction at a low level throughout the year.

The condy's pattern of development is oviparous and planktonic, meaning it has the advantage of a potentially wide dispersal of zygotes despite the cost of high mortality in the offspring. This is the most primitive and widespread pattern of development among sea anemones.

The egg diameter of a condy can range from 110 to 1000 micrometers, a relatively large egg size for members of its taxonomic order. But, being a large and solitary species, it must find a means of competing for space with massive corals. This interspecific competition may have selected for planktonic dispersal. When in competition with fellow anemones, it is suggested that large egg size was selected to maintain survival. This is all assuming, however, that reproduction produces large juveniles capable of agonistic behaviour after development.

Sperm is released by one condy which will fertilize another condy. The planula larva develops in the mesenterial chambers, getting its nutrients from yolk (meaning it is lecithotrophic). As the planula grow, they remains as ciliated balls with no tentacles. They are eventually released, unattached and free-swimming. Only after further development will the planula settle, attach, and form tentacles.

(Shick 1991, Barnes 1987)

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement

Behavior

When placed near other anemones, the condy tends to exhibit aggressive behavior. Using their cnidocysts as "weapons", the condy will fire upon "foreign" anemones to conserve its space on the ocean floor. The two individuals will fight, one advancing while the other withdraws, but both may suffer tissue damage. To avoid such confrontations, some spacial separation is left between indiviudals, leaving distinct "lines" on the ocean floor from one group to the next.

(Anemones 1990)

Food Habits

Condylactis gigantea feeds upon fish, mussels, shrimp, or other similar organisms. It will not, however, go near any natural predators, such as Red Leg Hermits.

Being a macrophagous carnivore, the condy will injest large prey such as adult sea urchins. With the low frequency of large prey available, it is suggested that the condy (like other anemones) is not selective about what it ingests but rather eats whatever prey it encounters.

Prey are paralyzed by the toxin-bearing nematocysts located on the tentacles. The prey is then carried to the mouth, which is opened by radial muscles in the mesentary. The prey is swallowed whole and digested extracellularly as well as intracellularly. More than 50% of the prey's nutrients are retained in the form of 15 individual amino acids.

When faced with starving conditions, the condy heavily relies on its lipid catabolism and the uptake of nitrate (or compounds with high levels of nitrate).

(Shick 1991, Barnes 1987)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Condys are studied by neurobiologists. Being one of the simplest metazoans, sea anemones have a diffuse nerve net which is rather primitive in comparison to other organisms. However, the structure of the neural components of the nerve net are largely unknown. Tissues of the condy are being stained to examine neurofilaments, which should lead to insightful information concerning nervous tissues. Researchers hope that by studying the molecular properties of Condylactis gigantea, more information will lead to a greater understanding of the nervous and endocrine system of all animals.

(Dellacorte, et al 1994a, Dellacorte, et al 1994b)

Contributors

Erica Silva (author), Southwestern University, Stephanie Fabritius (editor), Southwestern University.

Glossary

Atlantic Ocean

the body of water between Africa, Europe, the southern ocean (above 60 degrees south latitude), and the western hemisphere. It is the second largest ocean in the world after the Pacific Ocean.

World Map

coastal

the nearshore aquatic habitats near a coast, or shoreline.

ectothermic

animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

radial symmetry

a form of body symmetry in which the parts of an animal are arranged concentrically around a central oral/aboral axis and more than one imaginary plane through this axis results in halves that are mirror-images of each other. Examples are cnidarians (Phylum Cnidaria, jellyfish, anemones, and corals).

reef

structure produced by the calcium carbonate skeletons of coral polyps (Class Anthozoa). Coral reefs are found in warm, shallow oceans with low nutrient availability. They form the basis for rich communities of other invertebrates, plants, fish, and protists. The polyps live only on the reef surface. Because they depend on symbiotic photosynthetic algae, zooxanthellae, they cannot live where light does not penetrate.

References

December 25, 1996. "Anemones" (On-line). Accessed February 20, 2000 at http://www.slimyfrog.com/aquaria/anemones.html#genbev.

1998. "Condylactis Anemone: Condylactis Gigantea" (On-line). Accessed February 11, 2000 at http://www.petwhse2.com/gillsgrotto/species/condylactisanemone.asp.

Barnes, .. 1987. Invertebrate Zoology. Philidelphia: Saunders College Publishing.

Dellacorte, .., .. Anderson, .. McClure, .. Kalinoski. 1994a. Neurofilament-like immunoreactivity in the sea anemone Condylactis gigantea. Biological Bulletin, 187 (2): 200-207.

Dellacorte, .., .. McClure, .. Kalinoski. 1994b. Identification of synaptophysin-like immunoreactivity in the sea anemone Condylactis gigantea. Biological Bulletin, 187 (3): 355-362.

Meinkoth, .. 1981. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Seashore Creatures. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

Shick, .. 1991. A Functional Biology of Sea Anemones. London: Chapman & Hall.

Willmer, .. 1990. Invertebrate Relationships: Patterns in animal evolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.