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Edwardsia vivipara (Family Edwardsiidae)

Burrowing Anemone


Edwardsia vivipara has only been found in Australia — the outer Harbour of Port Adelaide in the Gulf St Vincent, South Australia and Port Phillip Bay, Victoria. Many sightings, possibly of an as yet unnamed species of Edwardsia, have been made elsewhere. (SA, VIC)


This is the only true burrowing sea anemone recorded in Australia. It has a bulb-like structure at the base of the column called a physa which aids in burrowing and is used to anchor the anemone in soft sediments. There are 12 or more tentacles and these are usually the only part of the animal visible, lying on the surface of the sediment. These anemones are up to 60 mm in length and 40 mm in diameter. Little has been recorded of the colour of burrowing anemones, but preserved specimens are ochre in colour.

Anemones of the family Edwardsiidae, unlike other anemones, have bodies that are divided into a number of regions. These regions include a thin-walled region at the base of the tentacles (the capitulum) and a thick-walled region, which comprises most of the column (the scapus). The base of the column comprises the physa.

Ecology/Way of Life:

This inconspicuous species is found in sand flats of the intertidal zone, in low-current, soft-sediment locations. Young are borne internally — adults often contain embryos at various stages of development. The outer cell layer contains numerous single-celled plants called zooxanthellae. This indicates that some degree of dietary supplementation is taking place in addition to the nutrients gathered by filter feeding.

Interaction with Humans/Threats:

There are no known threats to this species. However, it does have a very restricted distribution within the Port Adelaide Harbour, which may make it vulnerable to pollution.

Other Comments:

No common names are known for this species, but other species in the genus Edwardsia are known as various kinds of burrowing anemones.

Further Reading:

Carlgren, O. (1950) Actiniaria and Zoantharia from South Australia. Kungl. Fysiografiska Sallskapets I Lund 20: 121 – 135.

Fautin, D.G. (2003) Hexacorallians of the World.

Thomas, I.M. & Shepherd, S.A. (1982) Sea anemones (Orders Actiniaria, Zoanthidea and Corallimorpharia) In, Shepherd, S.A. & Thomas, I.M. (ed.) Marine Invertebrates of Southern Australia Part I. Handbook of the flora and fauna of South Australia, Government Printer, South Australia pp. 161 – 169.


Text & map by Carden Wallace & Zoe Richards, Museum of Tropical Queensland.

Photograph by Neville Coleman.

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