Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ben - Anthopleura and their algal symbionts

Hi, my name is Ben Holzman and I am an intern at SPMC (Shannon Point Marine Center) located in Anacortes, WA through the COSEE PRIME program. Since this is my first post on the site, as well as my first blogging experience period, I would like to give a brief introduction before I delve into the details of my project.

I have attended Cascadia Community College for the last two years with the intention of transferring to the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa to obtain a degree with a major in marine biology and a minor in Zoology. I learned about the COSEE PRIME opportunity through my biology teacher at Cascadia who saw the posting and forwarded the link to me. Because my future career goals involve working with Cnidarians and the symbionts which many species contain, the listing for an internship working with intertidal sea anemones and the algal symbionts they are host to seemed to be the perfect fit.

Now that my introduction is out of the way we can get to the fun part…the science! While at SPMC I will be working with Dr. Brian L. Bingham and focusing my work on two specific anemone species, Anthopleura xanthogrammica and Anthopleura elegantissima. To provide an in-depth introduction to these two species would involve writing an essay for my first post so I will only briefly compare the two.

A. xanthogrammica is the larger of the two species and while an individual can be found in close proximity to others it is a solitary anemone.

In comparison, A. elegantissima is relatively small when compared to A. xanthogrammica and is clonal which means that large groupings of A. elegantissima are can be found with individual animals in direct contact with their neighbor.

In terms of reproduction, A. xanthogrammica reproduces only sexually while A. elegantissima is able to reproduce both sexually and asexually. A fascinating point to make about A. elegantissima is that when an individual reproduces asexually it is through the process known as fission which means that if one was to look at a large colony of A. elegantissima all the individual anemones would be clones of the original anemone produced through sexual reproduction.

For my project I will be working with the anemones as well as the symbiotic algae that they host. Both species are capable of hosting two different algae which each can influence the color of the anemone itself. The two algae are zooxanthellae which appear brown and are able to tolerate greater temperature changes and the second is zoochlorellae which appear green. There also exists a state in which the anemones do not contain zooanthellae or zoochlorellae yet remain healthy.

A major focus of my project is on anemones which contain zoochlorellae. Because zoochlorellae is not able to withstand elevated temperatures as well as zooxanthellae appears to be able to we are interested in looking at the two anemone species any differences that may be present in how they interact with the algae.

In the weeks to come I will be able to go into my more detail about my project and methods as I begin to collect data. It looks to be an exciting summer and I’m looking forward to sharing it with everyone out there.

Until next time.


  1. Thanks for the great photos, they are really helpful in explaining the difference to those of us who are not as familiar with this animal as you are. I look forward to seeing the results.

  2. It seems like there are some interesting applications to climate change with these anemones. Any thoughts on this?

    I should mention that Ben has also been showing of his knowledge of sea anemones and other invertebrates while helping out with our mobile touch tank at Shannon Point - keep up the good work!