Imperial anemone (Capnea sanguinea)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biodiversity Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.Map Help



The imperial anemone gets its name from its often crimson appearance, although the colour varies from red, yellow or purplish and it is often marbled or blotched. It has a flattish oral disc not wider than the collar, and the tentacles are set close to its edge. The disc is primarily cream or red, and the tentacles are white or crimson with white flecks. The column is bell-shaped with a collar (parapet) surrounding a shallow groove (fosse). The tentacles have a short stalk and a terminal knob, which can vary in shape from spherical, pointed to lobed. It has up to 150 short and knobbed tentacles arranged in four equal cycles. The base can be 7-9 cm in diameter. 

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

This species is rarely seen but has been recorded from the southwest of England, the west coast of Scotland and Wales, as well as the northeast coast of Ireland.

Global distribution

Recorded from the west coasts of the British Isles and the northwest coasts of France. 


This species can be found buried in sand, gravel or mud, and also attached to rocks and shells. Has been recorded from the lower shore to offshore depths of 600 m.

Depth range

Lower shore - 600 m

Identifying features

  • Wide bell-shaped column with a base of 7-9 cm in diameter. 
  • Up to 150 tentacles arranged in concentric cycles. 
  • Tentacles short with a terminal knob on each. 

Additional information

This species' short tentacles distinguishes it from any other British anemone. In addition, they contain relatively few Stinging cells (nematocysts). Food particles are taken in when the throat everts, with no assistance from the tentacles. It is able to rapidly retract its disc and tentacles. Its broad base may be an adaptation to living in soft substrata as it acts as an anchor (Manuel, 1988).

Listed by

- none -


  1. Manuel, R.L., 1988. British Anthozoa. Synopses of the British Fauna (New Series) (ed. D.M. Kermack & R.S.K. Barnes). The Linnean Society of London [Synopses of the British Fauna No. 18.]. DOI

  2. Picton, B.E. & Costello, M.J., 1998. BioMar biotope viewer: a guide to marine habitats, fauna and flora of Britain and Ireland. [CD-ROM] Environmental Sciences Unit, Trinity College, Dublin.

  3. Picton, B.E. & Morrow, C.C., 2000. Encyclopaedia of Marine Life of Britain and Ireland., 2003-09-18

  4. Stephenson, T.A., 1935. The British Sea Anemones, vol. 2. London: Ray Society.

  5. Wood, E. (ed.), 1988. Sea Life of Britain and Ireland. Marine Conservation Society. IMMEL Publishing, London


  1. Centre for Environmental Data and Recording, 2018. Ulster Museum Marine Surveys of Northern Ireland Coastal Waters. Occurrence dataset accessed via on 2018-09-25.

  2. Isle of Wight Local Records Centre, 2017. IOW Natural History & Archaeological Society Marine Invertebrate Records 1853- 2011. Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-09-27.

  3. Manx Biological Recording Partnership, 2018. Isle of Man historical wildlife records 1990 to 1994. Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-10-01.

  4. NBN (National Biodiversity Network) Atlas. Available from:

  5. OBIS (Ocean Biodiversity Information System),  2024. Global map of species distribution using gridded data. Available from: Ocean Biogeographic Information System. Accessed: 2024-04-25


This review can be cited as:

Rowley, S.J. 2008. Capnea sanguinea Imperial anemone. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 25-04-2024]. Available from:

Last Updated: 17/04/2008