Sea-fan anemone

Amphianthus dohrnii


Sea-fan anemone (Amphianthus dohrnii) © Paul Kay

The sea-fan anemone does not usually attach directly to the seabed.  It lives instead with its base wrapped around a pink sea-fan or, occasionally, on sea firs and sponges or anything with similar tube-like branches.  It is found in rocky seascapes, from depths of about 10m down to 1000m.

The body of this tiny anemone is only about 1cm in diameter, and is fringed by about 80 short tentacles. It is buff, pink, orange or red in colour, usually streaked or splashed with white. The individual animals may be small, but they can group together in large, closely-packed colonies.

These anemones, and the sea-fans to which they attach, are near the northern limits of their geographical distribution in the UK. Natural changes in ocean currents and temperatures can affect their survival in these waters.  Human impacts on sea-fan anemones might include damage to the sea-fans by fishing activities and also pollution. 

They are found only in a few locations in south-west England, and anecdotal historical records suggest that sea-fan anemones were much more common in the early twentieth century than they are now.  This problem of declining numbers appears to be affecting sea-fan anemone populations throughout Europe.


European distribution

In the UK, records of the sea-fan anemone are restricted to south-west England and western Scotland, where it attaches to the northern sea-fan. It also occurs in south-west Europe and the Mediterranean, although recently the anemone appears to have become rare over its entire range.


Conservation status/need

  • Sea-fan Anemone FactThis is a UK BAP Priority Species (BAP species are now Species of Principal Importance/Priority Species).
  • Species of principal importance for the purpose of conservation of biodiversity under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006.
  • Nationally rare marine species.
  • The pink sea-fan, its main host, is protected under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.


Further information

Biodiversity Action Reporting System

Encyclopedia of Marine Life of Britain and Ireland

Marine Life Information Network

World Register of Marine Species

JNCC - UK BAP Priority Species and Habitats