The ecological importance of toxicity: sea anemones maintain toxic defence when bleached

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Cnidarians are amongst the most venomous animals on the planet. They are also under significant threat due to the impacts of climate change. Corals and anemones undergo climate-induced bleaching during extreme environmental conditions, where a loss of symbiotic photosynthetic algae (zooxanthellae) causes whitening in colour, loss of internal food supply, and reduction in health, which can ultimately lead to death. What has yet to be determined is whether bleaching causes a reduction in the production or quality of venom. In this study, the sea anemone Entacmaea quadricolor was exposed to long-term light-induced bleaching to examine the effect that bleaching has on venom. Venom quality and quantity, as determined through lethality and haemolysis measures and nematocyst production was highly preserved over the five-month imposed bleaching event. Maintenance of venom and nematocyst production, despite a loss of an internal food source provided by endosymbiotic algae, indicates both the ecological importance of maintaining toxicity and a remarkable resilience that anemones have to major environmental stressors.

Original languageEnglish
Article number266
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 11 May 2019

Bibliographical note

© 2019 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (


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