Mary's Monday Metazoan

This may shock you, but the Trophy Wife is not perfect. She doesn't quite get the cephalopod fetish, and thinks I'm a bit…weird. I know! It's unbelievable that there's only one person on the planet who thinks that, and I'm married to her! So, anyway, just to appease the spouse, I'll try to regularly throw in a non-cephalopodian creature. This week, here's something from back home in our mutual birth state of Washington, a crab being eaten by a sea anemone. Try not to read anything Freudian into it — although now that I've mentioned it, everyone will be looking for a metaphor here.


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Metaphor nothing. If that picture were from a different angle, it might roughly resemble a vagina. Kinda. Am I the only one who sees this?

To me, it looks like something from The Very Little Shop of Horrors.

By Father Nature (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

Could be a great personal hygiene poster....

Am I the only one who sees this?


Goodness. I didn't know anemones could do that. (To a crab, I mean; do the tentacles need to brush against a chink in the exoskeleton?)

If I understand anemone digestion correctly, the animal is (more or less) sticking as much of the crab as possible into its belly button, where it will absorb whatever it can, then puke the rest back out the same hole. And to think that some people find spiders' dining habits disgusting...

I never metaphor I didn't like. :-P

By Benjamin Geiger (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

Oh, trouble and strife! The Trophy Wife
Doesn't quite get the cephalofetish?
But think, if she did, and dressed up like a squid
To entice you to someplace that's wettish--
She would use both her charms and her tentacle arms
To entrap you in utter delight--
We'd just stare at the walls, while Pharyngula stalls
Cos you're too effing busy to write!

Hey, my wife thinks I'm weird too. What are the odds of that!

IMO, if you pretend it isn't a crab getting eaten, it looks like a crab with a punk hairdo sitting on a mighty cosy and enormous bean bag.

For those contemplating reincarnation, I definitely recommend against joining the cnidarian phylum -- the lack of an anus is a major downer. Indeed, as Mrs. Tilton notes, you have to use the same orifice for intake and discharge.

As for that crab, what a moron.


Like an earlier poster, I didn't know anemones could do that.


Number 5,890,765 added to my list of Things-To-Learn-More-About.

By Goldenmane (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

What a lovely, sentimental gift for your sweetie -- an image of something being eaten alive.

Ah, all-consuming love!

Any idea what gender the crab is? Perhaps the anemone is having some roe, a little crabiar, with its crab?

By Stacy L Mason (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

I didn't know anemones could do that.

You and the crab both!

By william e emba (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

People find other people strange due to differences between people! News at Eleven! Will furries ever find the love? Will our plushies ever be safe from such love?

In other news, the new disturbing sexual perversions of hermaphroditic anenomies as they attempt to molest poor crabs, whom the reporter is fairly sure is an entirely different species. Further speculation as too sexual preferences continue despite scientific knowledge, indeed, there is rampant speculation because of a lack of scientific knowledge.

What? It's eating the crab? Are you sure?

This just in, breaking oral sex scandal!

Hey, these are two different species right? I mean one has a hard shell and legs. What? There's a greater difference than just species in classification? What?

This just in, hot Phylum-on-Phylum action, I mean, uh, sex scandal! Yeah, this is real scandalous! Let's get more cameras in there!

She didn't get the cephalofetish so you decided to retaliate by giving her crabs? Rock ON PZ!

In Other news, I thought Anemones were more or less unmoving. How does it catch up to a relatively fast crab?

JD - any time spent wondering what Ray Comfort thinks about ANYTHING is time wasted. Hey, look! A crab!

By Nathaniel (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

On a totally unrelated subject: How does that sea anemone get rid of the crab's shell?

@ Will Oak -

The crab was probably flung into the anemone by some wave or current activity (Adult anemones aren't capable of much movement, so they just sit and wait for the nearest prey to be flung accidentally or to brush against their nematocyst-laden tentacles (which probably stung the exposed parts of the crab like its eye stalks, paralyzing it)).

@ misc -

Once the anemone completely swallows the crab and digests its soft parts, the exoskelton will be regurgitated.

By John Kwok (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

Moor -- Another poll where PZ is behind some guy called plait. The world is truly a horrible place.

Cuttlefish, I think you transposed the words in the last line....

should be:

Cos you're too busy effing to write! =)


Don't underestimate nature's slow movers. At school the bio lab had a native New Zealand cold water marine aquarium. One day we watched as a starfish chased a rockfish to exhaustion then captured and ate it. Crabs fall off things, or are brushed off by currents so it probably simply fell into the anemone.

I've seen crabs pluck anemones from rocks and stick them to their backs (presumably to deter their own predators), but that is taking it too far.

By Peter Ashby (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

The feminist's dilemma: point out that the author talks about his marriage partner like she's a piece of furniture and has just exposed her to public speculation about her private/sex life, or accept that the rest of the world finds that kind of thing hi-LAH-rious and not poop the party?

Decisions, decisions.

Or possibly that the trophy wife understand the humor and probably refers to PZ in ways that other people may get all offended about.

I think over sensitivity is probably not useful in this case.

In Other news, I thought Anemones were more or less unmoving. How does it catch up to a relatively fast crab?

Nature is full of strangenesses like this. For myself, I always wondered how it could be that cats eat birds: I know if I could fly, nothing that couldn't fly would ever devour me. Go figure, eh?

Again, I bow in the direction of Cuttlefish. All I can say is that crab must have had the flu or be on his last legs already to have gotten caught by an anemone.

By itwasntme (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

That vagina has crabs!

Kewl. Something else to look forward to on Pharyngula.

And Cuttlefish good sir, what are you on? For you have been especially on fire the last couple of days. Bravo sir, bravo.

By John Phillips, FCD (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

TheLady, the trophy wife bit is an old joke here. Some creationist (I forget who.) made some charge about evolutions being in on a racket and that scientists were using their collective lies in order to pull in the big bucks and have trophy wives. The joke, besides the conspiracy theory, is that PZ and Mary have known each other since they were in elementary school

By Janine, Insult… (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

Goodness. I didn't know anemones could do that. (To a crab, I mean; do the tentacles need to brush against a chink in the exoskeleton?)

Frankly, I doubt that anything is going on here other than the crab (ab)using the anemone as a cave. I can't see how nematocysts could penetrate the cuticle (even the non-calcified parts).

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

@John Kwok

@30 Bill Dauphin

Ah, but cats can stalk and jump, and birds can't stay airborne forever.

I personally observed my cat catch birds in two separate ways.

1) Stalk bird, get close, rush. Bird takes off. If bird flies towards cat, cat would jump four feet straight up in the air and smack the bird with its paw. Bird, stunned, would be knocked to the ground and cat would pounce upon it and finish it off (or play with it, as the case may be).

2) Bird rustling about in hedge, thinks it is safe. Hah! Cat launches itself at bush, lands on bush, reaches in with paw, claws out, fishes for bird, who, being inside the bush, cannot fly. Cat pulls paw out of bush, bird attached. To mouth, eat.

It was fascinating.

I once watched a sparrow repeatedly dive bomb a cat that was hiding under a car, peeking out every so often to see if it was safe. Eventually I had to continue on my way. I never did find out the ending.

By william e emba (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

@35 David Marjanović

Even if the nematocysts can't get through the cuticle, the crab is now sitting in a cave full of digestive juices while being firmly held by the anemone.

I think that crab has been got at by British rioting crusties and soap-dodgers and had a green wig stuffed on it's back.

It is exactly the same as the green Mohawk wig they put on the statue of Churchill when they were rioting about compulsory showers and hygiene lessons in schools (or something like that).

Check it out at:

PZ, If you have access to Audubon Magazine check out this month's One Picture.

It's a nice photo of Mavis, England's Weymouth Sea Life Park's giant Pacific octopus playing with her favorite toy.

While you can read the article online, you can't see the accompanying photo very well that way.

By bastion of sass (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

Yes, anemone's can move. There's a still picture of one doing so in Brusca and Brusca. Here's a video of a starfish vs anemone confrontation.

By william e emba (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

Anemones can move around quite well. We lost a Ritteri (H. Magnifica)anemone when it decided to crawl into a powerhead. (We didn't realise that they do such things at the time)

That was very messy...

By Epinephrine (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

@ william e emba -

Anemones are capable of limited movement, but they are primarily sessile, moving primarily to avoid danger (e. g. predation) as you've indicated.

Here's another example of an anemone preying successfully on a crab, thanks to some unexpected human assistance:

By John Kwok (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

Re cats and birds (@37, 38, 39), I'll add my own testimony: The one time I witnessed our family cat eat a bird, it didn't have to work so hard. A hapless bird flew into our house's clerestory window, and then fell, stunned, literally at the cat's feet. The only thing surprising about what ensued (virtually instantly!) is how little trouble the beaks and claws and feathers seemed to give the cat's digestive tract.

The one aspect that links all these stories is that birds are birdbrains. I continue to insist that if I could fly, I (not being a birdbrain) wouldn't be eaten by anything that couldn't. I might not be able to stay airborne for ever, but I bet I could manage to stay out of cat-jump range pretty much indefinitely.

I too doubt there is predation going on here.

By Sven DiMilo (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

My Fatso does make the occasional attempt at stalking the blackbirds, but I've never seen him get anything (and he's only presented me with a single mouse - which I had to kill for him).

But the neighbour's cats supposedly catch bats in the air.

I was gonna make a joke about dressing up, but Cuttlefish :genuflects: has done so much better.

I got to watch exactly this in my aquarium a few years back. I had crabs and anemones I had picked up from the beach, and most of the time there was no issue at all. The crab was about the size of the one in the video in comment #45, and the anemone wasn't much bigger than he was. I walked in, and saw that the anemone had trapped, and half enveloped him. Sat an watched my own personal "wild kingdom" for about 30 minutes, at which point the crab eascaped. Utterly fascinating!


Posted by: Bill Dauphin @ 30 " "In Other news, I thought Anemones were more or less unmoving. How does it catch up to a relatively fast crab?"
Nature is full of strangenesses like this. For myself, I always wondered how it could be that cats eat birds: I know if I could fly, nothing that couldn't fly would ever devour me. Go figure, eh?"

All good things come to those who wait (so they say), and Bill, most birds have to land some time. Many species feed on the ground. All a cat has to do is wait (and pounce)

By Katkinkate (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

From my own experience with a marine aquarium, I can say that adult pink-tipped anemones can move about as fast as a snail when they're so inclined. Typically they're only inclined when you put something in the tank that you absolutely don't want an anemone on.

Like cats drawn to the allergic person, anemones seem to be able to sense that you don't want them on this rock or that suction device and are inexplicably drawn toward it.

I let one crawl onto my hand once. Though initially seeming kind of cool (they don't sting on the bottom), I quickly realized that you can't just ask it to leave. Hence I was stuck for about half an hour with my hand near a piece of live rock, waiting for the anemone to crawl off.

As Peter Ashby @ #26 Mentioned, crabs seek out and actively attache anemones to their shell and they do this swiftly. I once threw a number of tricolor anemones in a large tank with spider crabs. the next morning every crab was sporting an anemone on their carapace. The anemone maneuvers to the side so that its tentacles brush the surface as the crab walks, vastly increasing its ability to gather food (I surmise) while the crab gets protection from predators.

By Blind Squirrel FCD (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

BTW. I believe the shot was staged. Someone stuck that crab in the anemone for drama.

By Blind Squirrel FCD (not verified) on 09 Mar 2009 #permalink

I guess the sea anemone decided to do sometthing about the crabs it was having.

" Try not to read anything Freudian into it — although now that I've mentioned it, everyone will be looking for a metaphor here."

Freudian? Ech, zometimez a zea anemone eating a krab ist chust a zea anemone eating a krab. *lights cigar*