Berried Anemone (Alicia mirabilis)

/ / Marine Inverts


Alicia mirabilis is a large sea anemone, its column alone reaching up to 40 cm in height (1). The tentacles themselves are arranged in multiples of six and are long, slender and numerous and can extend to a further meter in length (2). Upon the column are berry-like structures which are covered in both spirocysts which stick to and entangle prey (3), and nematocysts which are cells that when triggered fire a harpoon-like mechanism containing a toxin which is then injected into the prey causing paralysis or death (4). These cells are also present on the tentacles (5).  The toxin injected by A. mirabilis is sufficient to cause severe pain in humans (1). When fully expanded this amenome is yellow-green in colour (6).


A. mirabilis is generally only active at night. During the day it swallows its tentacles and then contracts (1;5). It is a very mobile species, being able to move about freely (1).

Life Cycle

A. mirabilis reproduces sexually and is oviparous (7).


A. mirabilis can be found inhabiting sandy substrates, amongst weeds and seagrass beds and upon rocks (5).


This species has been observed in Azores, the Mediterranean, the Red Sea and in the South-eastern North Atlantic (8) and its range appears to be expanding (1).


A. mirabilis are carnivorous trapping prey out of the water column with their tentacles which then retract passing the prey to the mouth. It feeds upon small fish and planktonic organisms (9).

Conservation status

Not listed under the IUCN Red List (10).


Description written by Angus Smith (2009)

(1)   Wirtz, P. and Debelius, H. (2003). Mediterranean and Atlantic Invertebrate Guide. Conchbooks, Germany.

(2)   Katsanevakis S., Thessalou-Legaki M., (2007). First record of Alicia mirabilis (Anthozoa: Actinaria) from the Aegean Sea and density assessment with distance sampling in a site of high abundance. Marine Biology Research, 3 (6): 468 – 472

(3)   Mariscal R. N., McLean R. B., Hand C., (1977). The Form and Function of cnidarians spirocysts. Cell and Tissue Research, 178 (4): 427-433

(4)   Kass-Simon G., Scappaticci Jr. A. A., (2002). The behavioural and developmental physiology of nematocysts. Canadian Journal of Zoology. 80 (10): 1772-1794(23)

(5)   Tree of Life Web Project. 2000. Alicia. Version 01 January 2000 (temporary). in The Tree of Life Web Project,

(6)   Cerrano C., Ponti M., Silvestri S. (2004) Guida alla biologia marina del Mediterraneo. Ananke Edizioni, Torino.

(7)   Hofrichter R. (2003), Das Mittlemeer – Fauna, Flora, Öklogie. Spektum Akademischer Verlag Heidelberg, Berlin.

(8)   WoRMS (2009). Alicia mirabilis Johnson, 1861. Accessed through the World Register of Marine Species at on 2009-10-01

(9)   Hayward, P., Nelson-Smith, T., Shields, C. (1996) Sea Shore of Britain and Europe, Harper Collins Publishers Ltd., London

(10) IUCN 2009. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2009.1. <>. Downloaded on 01 October 2009.