The distribution patterns of the leathery sea anemone, Heteractis crispa, which contains an algal endosymbiont (zooxanthellae) and anemonefish, were investigated in relation to size distribution on a shallow fringing reef (3.2 ha, 0–4 m depth) in Okinawa, Japan. Individual growth and movements were also examined. Large individuals (>1,000 cm2) inhabited reef edges up to a depth of 4 m, while small anemone (<500 cm2) inhabited shallow reefs including inner reef flats. Individuals rarely moved, and their sizes were significantly correlated with their water depths. Growth of small anemones was negatively correlated with their distance from the reef edge, suggesting that reef edges provide more prey and lower levels of physiological stress. This study suggested that deep reef edges are suitable habitats for H. crispa. Large anemones were inhabited by large Amphiprion perideraion or large Amphiprion clarkii, both of which are effective defenders against anemone predators. Anemones that settle in deep reef edges may enjoy a higher survival rate and attain a large size because of their symbiotic relationship with anemonefish. However, early settlers do not harbor anemonefish. Their mortality rate would be higher in the deep edges than in shallow edges, the complicated topography of which provides refuge.
Body sizeHabitat suitabilityHeteractis crispaMovementReef structureSymbiotic relationshipWater depth