Starlet sea anemone

Nematostella vectensis


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.


European distribution

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.


Conservation status/need

  • Starlet Sea 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.
  • Listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.
  • Protected under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
  • 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.


Further information

Biodiversity Action Reporting System

Encyclopedia of Marine Life of Britain and Ireland

Marine Life Information Network

Marine Species Identification Portal