American Oceans

What’s the difference Between Sea Anemone and Coral?

Sea anemones and corals are both fascinating marine creatures that are often found in the same habitats.

a bubble tip sea anemone

While they may look similar, they are different organisms with distinct characteristics. Sea anemones are classified as a type of polyp, which is a cylindrical, tentacled animal that attaches itself to a surface.

On the other hand, coral is a colony of polyps that secrete a hard, calcium carbonate skeleton, forming a structure that is often mistaken for a rock or a plant.

That’s just the beginning. Read more below to learn everything about sea anemone vs coral!

Understanding Sea Anemones


Sea anemones are cylindrical-bodied, soft-bodied marine animals that belong to the phylum Cnidaria.

They have a ring of tentacles surrounding a central mouth, which is used to capture prey. These tentacles are armed with stinging cells, called nematocysts, which are used to immobilize prey and for defense against predators.

Sea anemones come in a variety of colors and sizes, ranging from less than an inch to over six feet in diameter.

Habitat and Distribution

Sea anemones are found in all marine ecosystems, from shallow tidal pools to deep-sea trenches. They are typically found attached to rocks, coral reefs, or other hard surfaces.

Some species are free-living and can move around, while others are tube-dwelling anemones that live inside tubes they secrete.

Diet and Predators

Sea anemones are carnivorous and feed on a variety of marine animals, including fish, shrimp, and crabs.

They capture their prey using their tentacles and stinging cells, and then use their central mouth to consume the prey.

Sea anemones have few natural predators, but some species are eaten by sea stars, nudibranchs, and certain species of fish.

Anatomy and Physiology

Sea anemones have a simple anatomy, with no brain or circulatory system. They have a mucus layer that covers their body, which helps to protect them from predators and parasites.

Sea anemones have a unique protein called green fluorescent protein (GFP), which gives them their bright green color. They also have whip-like structures called cilia, which help to move water and food particles towards their central mouth.

Symbiotic Relationships

Sea anemones have a symbiotic relationship with several marine animals, including clownfish and shrimp. Clownfish live among the tentacles of sea anemones and are protected from predators by the anemone’s venomous tentacles.

In return, the clownfish provide the sea anemone with food scraps and help to circulate water around the anemone’s body.

Some sea anemones also have a symbiotic relationship with green algae, which live inside their cells and provide them with sugar through photosynthesis.

Understanding Corals

yellowish-brown elkhorn coral in caribbean sea

Corals are marine invertebrates that form colonies and are commonly found in coral reefs. They are polyps that secrete calcium carbonate to form a hard exoskeleton, which provides protection and support.

There are two main types of corals, soft corals and hard corals. Soft corals have a flexible exoskeleton, while hard corals have a stony exoskeleton. Some common species of hard corals include staghorn coral and brain coral.

Habitat and Distribution

Corals can be found in a variety of marine ecosystems, but they are most commonly associated with coral reefs. Coral reefs are found in shallow, warm waters where there is plenty of sunlight for photosynthesis.

They are found in tropical and subtropical waters around the world, with the Great Barrier Reef in Australia being the largest coral reef system in the world.

Diet and Predators

Corals are filter feeders that consume zooplankton and other small marine animals. They are also able to obtain nutrients through a symbiotic relationship with photosynthetic algae called zooxanthellae.

Corals have few natural predators, but they can be preyed upon by some species of fish, sea stars, and snails.

Anatomy and Physiology

Corals have a simple anatomy and physiology. They have a mouth surrounded by tentacles, which they use to capture prey.

They also have a simple nervous system and digestive system. Corals are able to reproduce both sexually and asexually, and they can form large colonies over time.

Symbiotic Relationships

Corals have a symbiotic relationship with zooxanthellae, which live inside their tissues. The zooxanthellae provide the corals with food through photosynthesis, and the corals provide the zooxanthellae with shelter and nutrients.

This relationship is essential for the survival of coral reefs.

In addition to zooxanthellae, corals can also form symbiotic relationships with other marine animals, such as sea pens, soft corals, and gorgonians. These relationships provide shelter and protection for both the coral and the other animal.

Sea Anemone Vs Coral: The Differences

a close up of colorful coral

Sea anemones and corals are both members of the phylum Cnidaria and class Anthozoa. However, there are some physical differences between them.

Sea anemones have a simple cylindrical shape with a soft body and are generally smaller in size than corals. Corals, on the other hand, have a hard skeleton made of calcium carbonate and are colonial organisms that can form reefs.

They also have polyps that are interconnected by a common gastrovascular cavity.

Habitat Differences

Sea anemones are found in a variety of habitats, including soft sediments, rocky shores, and coral reefs. They are sessile organisms and can attach themselves to rocks or other substrates.

Coral reefs, on the other hand, are found exclusively in shallow tropical and subtropical waters. They require clear, warm water with a lot of sunlight to survive.

Dietary Differences

Sea anemones are carnivorous and feed on small invertebrates and plankton. They use their stinging tentacles to capture prey and then consume them using their mouth located in the center of their body.

Corals, on the other hand, are filter feeders and rely on algae living inside their polyps to provide them with nutrients through photosynthesis.

Anatomical Differences

Sea anemones and corals have different anatomical structures. Sea anemones have a single opening that serves as both mouth and anus.

Corals, on the other hand, have a separate mouth and anus. Additionally, sea anemones have a well-developed nerve net that helps them detect prey and predators, while corals lack a centralized nervous system.

Symbiotic Relationship Differences

Sea anemones and corals both have symbiotic relationships with other organisms. Sea anemones can form symbiotic relationships with crabs and other invertebrates, while corals have a symbiotic relationship with algae that live inside their polyps.

This relationship provides the coral with nutrients and the algae with a protected environment to carry out photosynthesis.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the body plan of Anthozoa?

Anthozoa is a class of marine invertebrates that includes sea anemones and corals. They have a simple body plan consisting of a cylindrical body with a central mouth surrounded by tentacles. The tentacles are used for feeding and defense.

What is the relationship between sea anemone and coral?

Sea anemones and corals are both members of the class Anthozoa. They share a similar body plan and are closely related.

However, there are some differences between them.

What are the differences between sea anemone and coral?

Sea anemones are solitary animals that live on the sea floor, while corals are colonial animals that form reefs. Corals also have a hard exoskeleton made of calcium carbonate, while sea anemones do not.

Additionally, corals have symbiotic algae living inside their tissues, which provide them with energy through photosynthesis. Sea anemones do not have this relationship.

Is it safe to touch sea anemones?

It is generally safe to touch sea anemones, but it is important to be cautious. Some species have stinging cells called nematocysts that can cause a painful sting.

It is best to avoid touching them, and if you do accidentally touch one, rinse the affected area with saltwater.

Why is it harmful to touch sea anemones?

Sea anemones have stinging cells called nematocysts that can cause a painful sting. In some cases, the sting can cause an allergic reaction or other health problems.

It is important to be cautious and avoid touching sea anemones.

What is the role of sea corals in coral reef ecosystems?

Sea corals play an important role in coral reef ecosystems. They provide habitat and shelter for a wide variety of marine life, including fish, crustaceans, and mollusks.

Coral reefs also help protect coastlines from storms and erosion and support local economies through tourism and fishing.

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