Giant Green Anemones (Anthopleura xanthogrammica) are invertebrates found on sand and rock covered shore lines from Alaska to Panama. They typically feast on small fish and crustaceans which they sting and immobilize with their tentacles prior to consumption. It was therefore quite a shock when researcher Laura Sheffield Guy, University of Washington, and her colleagues discovered one gobbling down a nestling cormorant in Cannon Beach, Oregon. You can check out their findings in a paper published in Marine Ornithology.
It’s pretty unusual for marine invertebrates to eat seabirds, except for octopuses, so this find was certainly an interesting one. The scientists don’t know if the bird was dead when the anemone started eating it, but suggest it’s possible that a predator such as a Bald Eagle accidentally dropped it into the sea. Alternatively it’s possible that the bird was knocked out of a nest during a disturbance event, which can often occur when aerial predators approach. Either way, it seems likely that these anemones will chow down on anything they can wrap their little tentacles round.
In this report the scientists also describe two other bird gobbling events, both of which involved anemones eating gulls. In one case, the anemone wolfed down the entire chick, leaving only the feet. Because who wants to eat those? The other anemone was found to be eating just a leg, suggesting that discarded remains can be a food source for these invertebrates. Drumstick, anyone?
Here’s some footage of the bizarre situation for you to feast your eyes on.