Members of the class Anthozoa display only polyp morphology and have cnidocyte-covered tentacles around their mouth opening.
- Identify the adaptive features of anthozoa
- Anthozoans include sea anemones, sea pens, and corals.
- The pharynx of anthozoans (ingesting as well as egesting food) leads to the gastrovascular cavity, which is divided by mesenteries.
- In Anthozoans, gametes are produced by the polyp; if they fuse, they will give rise to a free-swimming planula larva, which will become sessile once it finds an optimal substrate.
- Sea anemonies and coral are examples of anthozoans that form unique mutualistic relationships with other animal species; both sea anemonies and coral benefit from food availability provided by their partners.
- mesentery: in invertebrates, it describes any tissue that divides the body cavity into partitions
- cnidocyte: a capsule, in certain cnidarians, containing a barbed, threadlike tube that delivers a paralyzing sting
- hermatypic: of a coral that is a species that builds coral reefs
The class Anthozoa includes all cnidarians that exhibit a polyp body plan only; in other words, there is no medusa stage within their life cycle. Examples include sea anemones, sea pens, and corals, with an estimated number of 6,100 described species. Sea anemones are usually brightly colored and can attain a size of 1.8 to 10 cm in diameter. These animals are usually cylindrical in shape and are attached to a substrate.
Anthozoans: The sea anemone (a), like all anthozoans, has only a polyp body plan (b).
The mouth of a sea anemone is surrounded by tentacles that bear cnidocytes. They have slit-like mouth openings and a pharynx, which is the muscular part of the digestive system that serves to ingest as well as egest food. It may extend for up to two-thirds the length of the body before opening into the gastrovascular cavity. This cavity is divided into several chambers by longitudinal septa called mesenteries. Each mesentery consists of one ectodermal and one endodermal cell layer with the mesoglea sandwiched in between. Mesenteries do not divide the gastrovascular cavity completely; the smaller cavities coalesce at the pharyngeal opening. The adaptive benefit of the mesenteries appears to be an increase in surface area for absorption of nutrients and gas exchange.
Sea anemones feed on small fish and shrimp, usually by immobilizing their prey using the cnidocytes. Some sea anemones establish a mutualistic relationship with hermit crabs by attaching to the crab’s shell. In this relationship, the anemone gets food particles from prey caught by the crab, while the crab is protected from the predators by the stinging cells of the anemone. Anemone fish, or clownfish, are able to live in the anemone since they are immune to the toxins contained within the nematocysts. Another type of anthozoan that forms an important mutualistic relationship is reef building coral. These hermatypic corals rely on a symbiotic relationship with zooxanthellae. The coral gains photosynthetic capability, while the zooxanthellae benefit by using nitrogenous waste and carbon dioxide produced by the cnidarian host.
Anthozoans remain polypoid throughout their lives. They can reproduce asexually by budding or fragmentation, or sexually by producing gametes. Both gametes are produced by the polyp, which can fuse to give rise to a free-swimming planula larva. The larva settles on a suitable substratum and develops into a sessile polyp.