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Oulactis muscosa (Family Actiniidae)

Speckled Anemone


Oulactis muscosa occurs along the mainland Australian coast from Spencer Gulf, South Australia to just north of the Queensland border as well as Tasmania. The species is also recorded from parts of New Zealand including Dunedin and Cook Strait. (QLD, NSW, VIC, SA, TAS)


The Speckled Anemone is named after its habit of collecting and attaching gravel, shell or sand on and between its tentacles. It may grow to 100 mm in height and 50 mm in diameter and is mostly dark brown, with a green actinopharynx and white colouration on the lower part of the column. The upper part of the column has vertical rows of white coloured adhesive verrucae. The tentacles are short, conical shaped and numerous (up to 100) and are transparent to pale brown in colour. Alternating between the outer tentacles are a series of short, fringed spherules that are usually obscured by sand grains.

Ecology/Way of Life:

This is a common species which mostly inhabits the mid to low intertidal zone. It attaches to rocky substrates under several centimetres of sand, so that only the tentacles and oral disc appear on the surface. Zooxanthellae are abundant in the tentacles, oral disc and upper column. It is recorded to feed upon small mussels.

Interaction with Humans/Threats:

This is an abundant anemone which is not collected for the aquarium trade, and thus is not threatened at present.

Other Comments:

A similar species, Oulactis macmurrichi, is found from Perth, Western Australia to Coffin Bay, South Australia and differs only in that it has a darker colouration. No other common names are known to have been used for these two species.

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. (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 Jackie Wolstenholme.

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