Marine Biology

, Volume 150, Issue 3, pp 369–375 | Cite as

Viable algae released by the seastar Dermasteriasimbricata feeding on the symbiotic sea anemone Anthopleura elegantissima

  • Sarah Bachman
  • Gisèle Muller-ParkerEmail author
Research Article


Echinoderms are major predators of anemones in temperate ecosystems. The fate of two algae, zooxanthellae and zoochlorellae, after their host anemone (Anthopleura elegantissima Brandt) was consumed by the leather star Dermasterias imbricata Grube was determined in experiments conducted in July and August 2004. Productivity, photosynthetic pigments, and mitotic index (percent of cells dividing) were used as indicators of algal health; algae released after leather stars consumed their host were compared with algae freshly isolated from anemones. Two types of waste products contained algae: pellets resulting from extraoral digestion, and feces. Zooxanthellae and zoochlorellae isolated from these waste products were photosynthetic, although to different extents. For algae from feces and pellets, light-saturated photosynthetic rates (Pmax) were 85 and 13%, respectively, of Pmax of freshly isolated zooxanthellae; and were 20 and 46%, respectively, for zoochlorellae. The photosynthetic pigments and mitotic index (percent of dividing cells) were not altered by the feeding activities of the leather star. These results show that algae released by seastar predation on their hosts remain viable, and are hence available for establishing symbioses in A. elegantissima and other potential hosts.


Mitotic Index Waste Product Photosynthetic Pigment Symbiotic Alga Host Anemone 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This study was supported by NSF REU award OCE 0097190 to Western Washington University. We thank David Secord for arranging the loan of seastars from Friday Harbor Laboratories and for his comments on this work. Preparation of the manuscript took place while one of us (GMP) served in a position at the National Science Foundation. Any opinion, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of the National Science Foundation.


  1. Annett C, Pierotti R (1984) Foraging behavior and prey selection of the leather seastar Dermasterias imbricata. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 14:197–206CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Augustine L, Muller-Parker G (1998) Selective predation by the mosshead sculpin Clinocottus globiceps on the sea anemone Anthopleura elegantissima and its two algal symbionts. Limnol Oceanogr 43:711–715CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Birkeland C, Lucas JS (1990) Acanthaster planci major management problem of coral reefs. CRC Press, Boca Raton Google Scholar
  4. Glynn PW (1990) Feeding ecology of selected coral-reef macroconsumers patterns and effects on coral community structure. In: Dubinsky Z (ed) Ecosystems of the World, vol. 25 Coral Reefs. Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp 365–400Google Scholar
  5. LaJeunesse TC, Trench RK (2000) Biogeography of two species of Symbiodinium (Freudenthal) inhabiting the intertidal sea anemone Anthopleura elegantissima. Biol Bull 199:126–143CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Lewis LA, Muller-Parker G (2004) Phylogenetic placement of “zoochlorellae” (Chlorophyta), algal symbionts of the temperate sea anemone Anthopleura elegantissima. Biol Bull 207:87–92 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Mauzey KP, Birkeland C, Dayton PK (1968) Feeding behavior of asteroids and escape responses of their prey in the Puget Sound Region. Ecology 49:603–619CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Muller-Parker G (1984) Dispersal of zooxanthellae on coral reefs by predators on cnidarians. Biol Bull 167:159–167CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Schwarz JA, Weis VM, Potts DC (2002) Feeding behavior and acquisition of zooxanthellae by planula larvae of the sea anemone Anthopleura elegantissima. Mar Biol 140:471–478CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Seavy BE, Muller-Parker G (2002) Chemosensory and feeding response of the nudibranch Aeolida papillosa to the symbiotic sea anemone Anthopleura elegantissima. Invertebr Biol 121:115–125CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Sebens KP (1977) Habitat suitability, reproductive ecology, and the plasticity of body size in two sea anemone populations (Anthopleura elegantissima and A. xanthogrammica). PhD Dissertation, University of WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  12. Secord DE, Muller-Parker G (2005) Symbiont distribution along a light gradient within an intertidal cave. Limnol Oceanogr 50:272–278CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Siebert AE (1974) A description of the embryology, larval development, and feeding of the sea anemones Anthopleura elegantissima and Anthopleura xanthogrammica. Can J Zool 52:1383–1388CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Shannon Point Marine CenterWestern Washington UniversityAnacortesUSA
  2. 2.Department of BotanyUniversity of WyomingLaramieUSA
  3. 3.Ocean Sciences Room 725National Science FoundationArlingtonUSA

Personalised recommendations