cnidarians text index | photo index
Phylum Cnidaria
Large 'hairy' cnidarians
How to tell them apart?
updated Oct 2016

Several large animals (50cm and above) covered with 'hairy' or 'furry' stuff are sometimes confused for one another. Here's more on how to tell them apart.

Sea anemone
Order Actiniaria
Leathery soft coral
Order Alcyonacea
Anemone hard coral
Order Sclerectina
A sea anemone is usually
a single animal.
A leathery coral is usually
a colony of many tiny animals.
A hard coral is usually
a colony of many tiny animals.
The sea anemone has
a central mouth.
The leathery coral colony does not have a central mouth. The leathery tissue is shared by the tiny polyps.
The hard coral colony does not have a central mouth. The hard skeleton is created by the tiny polyps.
The 'hairy' things on the disk
are tentacles.
The 'hairy' things are actually
tiny polyps, each with a tiny
central mouth and tentacles.
The 'hairy' things are actually
tiny polyps, each with a tiny
central mouth and tentacles.

More comparisons


Many individual corallimorphs crowded
together may seem to be a large carpet.

Many individual banded bead anemones
crowded together may seem to be
a large carpet.

Many individual zoanthids crowded together
may seem to be a large carpet.

These are some large sea anemones with a close up look at their tentacles.

These are soft corals with a close up look at their polyps.

These are some hard corals with long polyps or tentacles.

The Sunflower mushroom coral
is a solitary polyp and a hard coral.

The Anchor coral is a colony of polyps
and is a hard coral.

The Anchor coral is a colony of polyps
and is a hard coral.

how to tell apart
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