As the name suggests, this marine invertebrate resembles the Venus Flytrap (Dionaea muscipula), a form of carnivorous terrestrial plant found in the subtropics of North America. Like other anemones, this animal has a stem-like body topped by an oral disk surrounded by long tentacles. Their bodies can range in color from white to pastel shades, but the disk and tentacles are usually bright orange. Individuals can vary in size with some specimens reaching up to a foot (0.3 m) in height and diameter. When threatened, the animal can close the oral disk and retract into the stem part of its body.
This anemone is a “suspension feeder,” meaning they occur near upwellings and will capture food with their long tentacles as it floats by on the current. They feed exclusively on detritus.
The animal reproduces through broadcast spawning, when males release sperm and females release eggs into the water column. Fertilized eggs will settle on the ocean bottom until they hatch and then the larvae swim away to feed. Once the young have sufficiently developed, they will attach themselves to the rocky substrate, moving only if their food source diminishes.
The Venus Flytrap Anemone occurs mostly in the deep-sea canyons of the Gulf of Mexico, although some smaller populations have been found off the west coast of Africa. They generally occur at depths of 3,300 to 6,600 feet (1,000 to 2,000 m). They seem to thrive in areas with gentler currents, often forming vast colonies with hundreds of individuals.
Photo credit: NOAA.