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Macrodactyla doreensis (Family Actiniidae)

Corkscrew Tentacle Anemone


Macrodactyla doreensis is found in the Central Indo-Pacific in a narrow north-south band, from Japan south to the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, and the Great Barrier Reef and Moreton Bay, Australia. (QLD)


The Corkscrew Tentacle Sea Anemone is named for its long tapered tentacles that sometimes form spirals. It is typically 100-200 mm in diameter, but may grow up to 500 mm. The lower half of this anemone is usually dull orange to brilliant red in colour, transitioning to green in the upper portion. The oral disc and the tentacles are grey-brown or brownish-violet with white verrucae in rows down the walls of the column. The rows of verrucae may also extend onto the oral disc and tentacles as radial white lines.

Ecology/Way of Life:

This anemone contains symbiotic single-celled algae or zooxanthellae. It lives in mud, sand or gravel substrates, in pockets on coral platforms or in sediment bordering coral reefs. It generally lives at 5 m depth, but has been reported from deeper water up to 15 m. The animal lies at the surface of the sediment with the column buried in the sediment and can retract completely into the sediment when disturbed.

The Corkscrew Tentacle Sea Anemone may host a variety of anemone fish including Amphiprion chrysogaster, A. clarkii, A. perioderaion and A. polymnus. However, it is commonly seen without fish — this anemone is in a different family to the other host anemone species. Experiments demonstrated that M. doreensis may serve as an alternative host for the saddled cleaner shrimp, Periclimenes holthuisi, which is usually found on living on Stichodactyla haddoni.

Interaction with Humans/Threats:

There are no known threats to the Corkscrew Tentacle Sea Anemone. It occurs along the Queensland coastline and is associated with coral reefs, hence any threats to reefs could impact upon this anemone. It is sold by the aquarium trade as the "Long Tentacle Anenome" and may be at risk from over-collecting.

Other Comments:

Many other names are also known for this species, including long tentacle anemone, corkscrew anemone, seabed anemone, sand anemone, red base anemone, long tentacle red based anemone, purple anemone, purple long tentacle anemone. This species has the most restricted distribution of any Australian anemone which hosts anemone fish.

Further Reading:

Dakin, W.J. (1987) W.J Dakin's classic study Australian Seashores: a guide to the temperate shores for the beach-lover, the naturalist, the shore-fisherman and the student. Angus & Robertson Publishers, North Ryde. 411 pp.

Edgar, G.J. (1997) Australian Marine Life: the plants and animals of temperate waters. Reed Books, Kew. 544 pp.

Fautin. D.G. (1985) Competition by anemone fishes for host actinians In, Proceedings of the Fifth International Coral Reef Congress, Tahiti, pp. 373 – 377.

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

Haddon, A.D. & Shackleton, A.M. (1893) Description of some new species of Actiniaria from Torres Straits. Scientific Transactions of the Royal Dublin Society 8: 116 – 131.

Khan, R.N., Becker, J.H.A., Crowther, A.L. & Lawn, I.D. (2003) Sea anemone host selection by the symbiotic saddled cleaner shrimp Periclimenes holthuisi. Marine and Freshwater Research 54: 653 – 656.

Richardson, D.L., Harriott, V.J. & Harrison, P.L. (1997) Distribution and abundance of giant sea anemones (Actinaria) in subtropical eastern Australian waters. Marine and Freshwater Research 48: 59 – 66.

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.

Photographs by Karen Gowlett-Holmes (Photo. 1) and Paul Muir (Photo. 2).

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