Symbiosis!

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Aiptasia are unusual beasts. To a naive eye, these palm-like anemone could easily be confused for plants. In fact, aquarists often refer to them as weeds, owing to their ability to rapidly grow and multiply in seawater aquaria. These creatures are most definitely animals. However, they do serve as a home for photosynthetic algae (dinoflagellates). In this symbiotic relationship, the algae provide energy (e.g., lipids and sugars) for the anemone in exchange for protection and nutrients. Within this sea of relatively large adults, I found a tiny, foldscopable polyp. almost invisible to the naked eye.

Aiptasia in a wax well

I mounted the tiny polyp on a glass slide, usinng a ring of wax to act as a well.

Symbiosis in action! I was shocked to make out individual dinoflagellates (the round balls) in the anemone’s tentacles. Not only that, many of these symbionts appeared to be rapidly traveling on internal highways. I wonder what the purpose of this rapid circulation is, and what sort of internal plumbing in the anemone would give rise to such interesting internal flows.

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Manu says:

    @Tom: Your video reminded me of some of my own videos on live circulations inside the arms anemone. I had not given it enough thought – but its so clear that they are spinning around and follow a circulatory pattern. But it does not make much sense right now; since the tubes inside are just hollow. So what determines which direction is up or down.

    This clearly needs more investigation 🙂 Let’s get our hands on more of these.. probably from John Pringle if he still has them.

    cheers
    manu

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