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Cryptodendrum adhaesivum (Family Thalassianthidae)

Sticky Anemone


Cryptodendrum adhaesivum is found in Australian waters along the coast of Queensland with records from the Low Isles and Moreton Bay. It occurs in other Indo-Pacific locations including the Red Sea, Maldives, Thailand, southern Japan, Melanesia, Micronesia, Marshall Islands and Polynesia. (QLD)


The tentacles of this species are extremely sticky, as highlighted by the taxonomic and common names given to this species. The base is adherent, generally broader than the column, but considerably narrower than the oral disc and usually irregular in outline. The column is contractile, and gradually widens from the base to the oral disc or flares abruptly near the margin of the oral disc. Verrucae are developed on the upper column. The oral disc is up to 300 mm in diameter when expanded, and is entirely covered with tentacles, except around the mouth, giving it a furry appearance. The tentacles are very sticky, extremely short (to 5 mm in length), dense and of two forms. Tentacles in the centre of the oral disc have a narrow stalk with five or more short finger-like branches at their tip: those near the edge of the disc are simple elongate bulbs about 1 mm in diameter. At the extreme margin of the oral disc, there is a ring of tentacles like the central ones, but with fewer branches.

This anemone may be extremely colourful — the two tentacle forms are usually different colours, and the stalk and tips of tentacles may also differ in colour. Colour combinations include yellow and pink, blue and grey, green and brown. Occasionally tentacles of another colour occur in patches amid those of the predominant colour. The mouth area may also be brightly coloured with fuchsia, yellow, green or white.

Ecology/Way of Life:

The Sticky Anemone occurs from shallow water to at least 15 m, living on coral reefs usually in deep hollows into which it can rapidly and completely withdraw. It is host to one species of anemone fish, Amphiprion clarkii, although it is rarely occupied. Tissues of the anemone contain single celled symbiotic algae called zooxanthellae.

Interaction with Humans/Threats:

No threats are known for this species and it is not generally collected for the aquarium trade. However, in Australian waters it has only been recorded from a few restricted locations hence this species would be vulnerable to collecting or disturbances within its range.

Other Comments:

Although the tentacles of Cryptodendrum adhaesivum are extremely sticky, they remain attached to the anemone when touched. This is unlike some other anemones, such as Stichodactyla haddoni, where the tentacles may detach. Other common names include Adhesive Anemone; Pizza Anemone, Nobbly Rim Anemone

Further Reading:

Dunn, D.F. (1981) The clownfish sea anemones: Stichodactylidae (Coelenterata: Actiniaria) and other sea anemones symbiotic with Pomacentrid fishes. Transactions of the American Philosophical Society 71: 1 – 115.

Fautin, D.G. (1991) The anemonefish symbiosis: What is known and what is not. Symbiosis 10: 23 – 46.

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

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.


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

Photograph by Neville Coleman.

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