A marine biologist would say that discovering a new sea anemone isn't so unusual. But finding one that calls a dead whale home is what sets this new creature apart.
Since the scientists who initially found these animals weren't sea anemone specialists, they sent the 10 specimens they collected to Meg Daly, an assistant professor of evolution, ecology and organismal biology at Ohio State University . Daly runs one of the very few laboratories in the world equipped to study sea anemones.
"These creatures were so cool simply because we knew that no sea anemone had ever been found on a whale fall," she said.
Once a whale dies, its carcass sinks to the bottom of the ocean. Scientists call this a "whale fall." The anemones that Daly received once lived on the bones of a dead whale some 1.8 miles (3,000 meters) below sea level in a region of the Pacific Ocean called Monterey Canyon, roughly 25 miles off the coast of Monterey, Calif. All of the specimens currently in Daly's collection came from this whale fall.
The anemone, given the scientific name Anthosactis pearseae ?there is no English name for it ?is small and white and roughly cube-shaped. It's about the size of a human molar, and even looks like a tooth with small tentacles on one side.
Daly and Luciana Gusmão, a doctoral student in Daly's laboratory, describe A. pearseae in detail in a recent issue of the Journal of Natural History. The two assigned the anemone to the genus Anthosactis primarily due to the roughly uniform length of A. pearseae's tentacles ?a characteristic common to this group of about seven sea anemones.
"We tend to differentiate Anthosactis species from other groups of sea anemones by a variety of traits, rather than any one unique attribute,"
Source:Ohio State University