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Red mushroom anemone

Actinodiscus sp.

Description: The Red mushroom anemone (also known as Mushroom coral or Disc anemones) is a reddish-maroon soft coral. They can vary in shade from red to pink or purple. Symbiotic algae, known as zooxanthellae, are responsible for the red color. They get their common name from their mushroom-like stalk and cap.

Size: Their size can range from one inch (2.5 cm) to one foot (0.3 m) in diameter, but usually are only about three inches (7.6 cm) across, before division occurs.

Behavior: Discosoma sp. are corals that live in large colonies attached to rock. They move and migrate to form large colonies but can die easily if they are not anchored down. Instead of having tentacles, these anemones possess many types of stinging cells. When needing to feed, they will change the direction of food to move towards themselves by changing the shape of the oral disc which creates a different water flow. These particles get stuck to the mucous center where they are absorbed.

Diet: They are able to receive nutrition in two different ways. The first way, where the majority of their nutrition is obtained, is through photosynthesis of the symbiotic algae zooxanthellae hosted within their tissues. The second is from plankton that they get out of the water column.

Senses: Elongated, round receptor cells, called nematocysts, are located throughout the body. These cells are stimulated by specific chemical or mechanical signals that activates the release of tiny spear-like threads that contain painful toxins.

Communication: Communication between animals is achieved by releasing hormones, known as pheromones, into the water that only their species can distinguish. To warn other corals a toxin is released into the water that is highly irritant and sometimes fatal to other coral species.

Reproduction: Reproduction is achieved sexually and asexually for this species. They can reproduce by division (coral breaks itself in half and becomes two animals), asexual budding (individual corals are made from particles that have detached from the pedal disc) and laceration (as the coral moves, pieces that will eventually form mushrooms are left behind). Mushroom coral also will release eggs and sperm into the water where they are fertilized.

Habitat/range: Red mushroom corals are found growing on dead corals, rubble and between coral heads in the South Pacific and Indo-Pacific Oceans.

Status: Not evaluated by IUCN.