The Sea Anemone is a “Planimal”

Written by on March 31, 2014 in Invertebrates, Marine Life
Sea anemone with orange-fin anemonefish.

Sea anemone with orange-fin anemonefish. Photo credit: David Burdick, NOAA.

Sea anemones are classified as animals (Kingdom: Animalia), but new research shows that they are actually half animal, half plant. (Planimal?)

How? Well to be a considered a plant there are two main requirements: the organism has to make its own food and it must have cell walls. To be an animal, it’s the opposite — the organism must acquire nutrients from other sources and it doesn’t have cell walls. Sea anemones don’t make their own food and they don’t have cell walls, but there’s another factor that makes them half plant.

Plants and animals are also affected differently by microRNA. In animals, miRNA affects gene expression by activating and deactivating genes. Plant miRNA behaves differently — it’s much more specific.

Researchers at the University of Vienna found that while the sea anemone’s DNA is similar to a vertebrate, it’s miRNA behaves as if its a plant.

Check out the following video with Trace from DNews to learn more. He explains that “many single-celled organisms flirt with that animal-plant boundary line depending on their needs and adaptations,” but this discovery is important because sea anemones are multicellular.

Read the full news release here: Sea anemone is genetically half animal, half plant.

Copyright © 2014 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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  1. scott tucker | July 7, 2014
  1. Carrie Stoltzman says:

    The article press release about gene regulation in anemones is really exciting news, and your summary of the topic is excellent. As a research scientist who has worked in the microRNA field, and a marine science/conservation enthusiast, I love to hear about research like this! And if not for this summary, I may have missed seeing the study findings. I will make a slight correction to your summary: microRNA is typically abbreviated as “miRNA”, while “mRNA” refers to messenger RNA. Keep up the great work!

  2. Emily says:

    Hi Carrie: I’m happy to hear you enjoyed the article. Thanks for the tip — already made the change!