The rock flower anemone is the most spectacular and the most colorful out of all anemone species. Common across the Caribbean and in the West Indies, this flower-like animal often called the beaded or the red beaded anemone not only adds spots of color to the sandy substrate, but further enriches the chromatic spectrum of the coral reefs as well.
Flower anemones are not big, the flat disc usually measures around 15 cm when the animal is fully developed. The first feature that meets the eye when looking at the rock flower anemone is how colorful it is. The basal disk with the mouth of the animal in the center is usually cream-colored or tan, with red and greyish stripes. The short tentacles – there are usually 200 of them on a full-grown disk – come in multiple colors, from brown, yellow, purple, green to red and green and they are arranged concentrically from the mouth toward the edges. The column comes with bright red suckers that capture debris for camouflage. The tentacles also have stinging cells that the anemone uses to protect itself, but only as a last resort – these flower anemones are known to be very peaceful, trying to withdraw into the substrate or into crevices when they feel threatened and using the stinging cells only when nothing else helps. Rocky flower anemones provide home to numerous other species such as zooxanthellae algae, copepods and various fish and snail species. Though these anemones spend most of their time anchored to the substrate or to corals with their base, they are mobile to a certain extent, able to move slowly around if they need to.
Like many other anemone species, rock flower anemones feed primarily on the waste produced by the zooxanthellae algae that live in their tissues. The algae photosynthesize and as a byproduct of the process they eliminate carbohydrates and oxygen used by the anemone. The animal also pursues food actively, capturing tiny food particles that swim by in the water column.
These anemones have a very long reproductive cycle, mating occurring once a year or once every two years. They reproduce sexually – the males release their sperm into the water, but fertilization takes place internally, in the female’s body. When the juvenile rock flower anemone individuals are released from the female’s body, they settle immediately in the vicinity of the mother.