The sea-fan anemone does not usually attach
directly to the seabed. It lives instead with its base
wrapped around a pink sea-fan or, occasionally, on sea firs and
sponges or anything with similar tube-like branches. It is
found in rocky seascapes, from depths of about 10m down to
The body of this tiny anemone is only about
1cm in diameter, and is fringed by about 80 short tentacles. It is
buff, pink, orange or red in colour, usually streaked or splashed
with white. The individual animals may be small, but they can group
together in large, closely-packed colonies.
These anemones, and the sea-fans to which they
attach, are near the northern limits of their geographical
distribution in the UK. Natural changes in ocean currents and
temperatures can affect their survival in these waters. Human
impacts on sea-fan anemones might include damage to the sea-fans by
fishing activities and also pollution.
They are found only in a few locations in south-west England,
and anecdotal historical records suggest that sea-fan anemones were
much more common in the early twentieth century than they are
now. This problem of declining numbers appears to be
affecting sea-fan anemone populations throughout Europe.
In the UK, records of the sea-fan anemone are restricted to
south-west England and western Scotland, where it attaches to the
northern sea-fan. It also occurs in south-west Europe and the
Mediterranean, although recently the anemone appears to have become
rare over its entire range.
- This is a UK BAP Priority Species (BAP
species are now Species of Principal Importance/Priority
- Species of principal importance for the purpose of conservation
of biodiversity under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities
- Nationally rare marine species.
- The pink sea-fan, its main host, is protected under Schedule 5
of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
Biodiversity Action Reporting System
of Marine Life of Britain and Ireland
Life Information Network
World Register of Marine Species
JNCC - UK BAP Priority
Species and Habitats