The starlet sea anemone lives in brackish lagoons at or above high water, usually in mud, muddy sand and muddy shingle but it is also found on tasselweed and seagrass.
This is a tiny anemone. The column of its body (which is usually buried in the seabed) is rarely more than 15 mm in length, and the disc from which its tentacles emerge is a miniscule 1.5mm across. Its sticky tentacles are very long in proportion to its body, and are colourless and translucent with pale tips.
The main threat to this rare anemone is loss and damage to lagoons and other sheltered brackish water habitats, caused by pollution, drainage and other activities. Coastal defence works and associated infilling can have a major impact.
Some populations of the starlet sea anemone have already become extinct in some places, due to loss of habitat and pollution.
In the UK, the starlet sea anemone occurs in only a few coastal lagoons in the Isle of Wight, Sussex, Hampshire, and in Dorset and along the East Anglian coast. It may also occur in some brackish ponds and ditches. It is not known elsewhere in Europe.
Listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List
UKBAP Priority Species
Protected under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981
In England, it is a species of principal importance for the purpose of conserving of biodiversity under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006
The coastal lagoons in which the starlet anemones can be found are a UKBAP priority habitat and are listed in Annex I of the Habitats Directive
Starlet Sea Anemone (Nematostella vectensis) UK Biodiversity Action Plan website
Starlet sea anemone - Nematostella vectensis Marine life information network
Nematostella vectensis Encyclopedia of Marine Life of Britain and Ireland
Nematostella vectensis Marine Species Identification Portal
The starlet sea anemone pushes its lower half into the mud and contracts its column-shaped body to burrow deeper, securing itself against water currents.