Wednesday, November 14, 2007
A sea anemone is a small sac, attached to the bottom by an adhesive foot, with a column shaped body ending in an oral disc. The mouth is in the middle of the oral disc, surrounded by tentacles armed with many cnidocytes, which are cells that function as a defense and as a means to capture prey. Cnidocytes contain cnidae, capsule-like organelles capable of everting, giving phylum Cnidaria its name. The cnidae that sting are called nematocysts. Each nematocyst contains a small vesicle filled with toxins—actinoporins—an inner filament and an external sensory hair. When the hair is touched, it mechanically triggers the cell explosion, a harpoon-like structure which attaches to organisms that trigger it, and injects a dose of poison in the flesh of the aggressor or prey. This gives the anemone its characteristic sticky feeling.