Two New Species Of Anemones Have Been Found Living In The Dark

Palythoa mizigama is found in Okinawa Island, Japan. Image: Yuka Irei

Two new species of encrusting anemones, or colonial zoantharians, have been found thriving in cracks off Japan and don’t draw energy from the sun.

They belong to the genus Palythoa commonly found on shallow coral reefs in subtropical and tropical waters worldwide.

Unlike most anemones, the two new species do not have zooxanthellae, which are symbiotic, photosynthetic, single-celled algae which provide the host with energy from the sun.

The species were discovered in research mostly conducted in Okinawa, Japan, by graduate student Yuka Irei and associate professor James Davis Reimer from the University of the Ryukyus. The findings are published in the journal ZooKeys.

One of the species came from just in front of a landfilled reef coastline on Okinawa Island.

“These two species are morphologically very similar,” says Reimer. “With long tentacles to acquire plankton from the water column, and polyps that are curved towards the entrances of cracks or caves for better access to their food source.”

While genetically distinct, each species appears to have evolved very similar features to adapt to its life in the dark.

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