When These Sea Anemones Eat, It Goes Straight to Their Arms

By Cara Giaimo.

People have a lot of strategies for dealing with the effects of large meals — constitutionals, antacids, workouts, naps.

Starlet sea anemones have found a better way: After they eat a lot, they simply sprout some extra arms.

In a paper published Wednesday in Nature Communications, researchers described how an abundance of food spurs these anemones to grow new tentacles, an ability never before seen in animals.

Cnidarians — a group that includes sea anemones, jellyfish and corals — diverged evolutionarily from the other animals more than half a billion years ago. Flies, humans and the rest of the animal kingdom tend to stick to the same body structure after they mature. But cnidarians are famously adaptable. Adult anemones switch up their body sizereproductive strategy and even their venom composition in response to environmental shifts.

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