BIOTIC Species Information for Urticina felina
Researched byAngus Jackson & Dr Keith Hiscock Data supplied byMarLIN
Refereed byProf. Daphne Fautin
Scientific nameUrticina felina Common nameDahlia anemone
MCS CodeD684 Recent SynonymsTealia felina,

PhylumCnidaria Subphylum
SuperclassAnthozoa ClassHexacorallia
Subclass OrderActiniaria
SuborderNynantheae FamilyActiniidae
GenusUrticina Speciesfelina

Additional InformationThe taxonomy and relationships of this sea anemone are in some confusion with anemones of very similar appearance and apparently reproductive biology to Urticina felina occurring on the north-west (Pacific) coast of north America. An attempt is made below to establish relationships important for using literature to support sensitivity and recoverability assessments elsewhere in this review. Stephenson (1935) identifies "Tealia (=Urticina) crassicornis" of Müller as a variety (crassicornis) of Tealia (=Urticina) felina (L.) but not the variety coriacea which is the "Tealia crassicornis" of Gosse (1860). However, Stephenson notes that, in his "var. crassicornis", the embryos develop up to a late stage in the coelenteron of the parent and later describes it as "viviparity". Since Appelöff (1900) cited in Chia & Spaulding (1972) reported that, in Europe, Tealia (=Urticina) crassicornis releases it's gametes freely into the sea (i.e. is not viviparous) and that the species they studied in the northwest USA similarly produced ova and sperm, it seems likely that their "Tealia crassicornis" has closer affinities to the British "Urticina felina" than to the species that occurs further north of the British Isles and is called "Tealia crassicornis (Müller)".
Taxonomy References Hayward et al., 1996, Solé-Cava et al., 1985, Manuel, 1988, Picton & Costello, 1998, Gosse, 1860, Chia & Spaulding, 1972., Stephenson, 1935, Howson & Picton, 1997,
General Biology
Growth formGlobose
Feeding methodPredator
Mobility/MovementTemporary attachment
Environmental positionEpibenthic
Typical food typesSee additional information. HabitAttached
BioturbatorNot relevant FlexibilityHigh (>45 degrees)
FragilityIntermediate SizeMedium(11-20 cm)
HeightInsufficient information Growth RateInsufficient information
Adult dispersal potentialVery limited (<1m) DependencyIndependent
General Biology Additional InformationDensities vary from solitary individuals to dense carpets in ideal locations such as crevices and gullies. Measurements of size refer to the diameter across the base. Growth is dependent on the level of feeding so size is not proportional to age. Gosse (1860) notes [most likely from aquarium observations] that "the shore crab (Carcinus) is its ordinary prey but it feeds on limpets, and other Mollusca and nereids and shrimps and on Echinus [now Psammechinus] miliaris. Rasmussen (1973) records Urticina felina as feeding mainly on gammarids in banks of Mytilus edulis.
Biology References Hayward et al., 1996, Solé-Cava et al., 1985, Chia & Spaulding, 1972., Manuel, 1988, Houtman et al., 1997, Migné & Davoult, 1997(a), Rasmussen, 1973, Wedi & Dunn, 1983, Elliott, 1992, Solé-Cava et al., 1994, Picton & Costello, 1998, Moen, 1996, Gosse, 1860,
Distribution and Habitat
Distribution in Britain & IrelandFound on all coasts of the British Isles.
Global distributionThe species is boreal-arctic with a possible circumpolar distribution. Found throughout Europe from northern Russia to Biscay but not in the Mediterranean. Records from elsewhere are incomplete and there is considerable confusion in taxonomy.
Biogeographic rangeNot researched Depth rangeDown to at least 100m
MigratoryNon-migratory / Resident   
Distribution Additional Information
  • Individuals found further offshore tend to be larger in size.
  • %Urticina eques% is a similar but larger species (up to 30 cm tentacle spread) with longer tentacles and more commonly found offshore and in deeper water to 400 m. This species has fewer or no verrucae and no attached gravel or other particles.
  • Urticina felina is recorded from several estuarine sites including Mucking in Thames estuary and the river Blackwater estuary and so will be subject to variable or low salinities. In the Westerschelde estuary, Braber & Borghouts (1977) found that Urticina (as Tealia) felina penetrated to about the 11ppt Chlorinity (about 20 psu) isohaline at mid tide during average water discharge making it tolerant of reduced salinity conditions.

Substratum preferencesOther species (see additional information)
Large to very large boulders
Small boulders
Crevices / fissures
Physiographic preferencesOpen coast
Offshore seabed
Strait / sound
Ria / Voe
Biological zoneLower Eulittoral
Sublittoral Fringe
Upper Infralittoral
Lower Infralittoral
Upper Circalittoral
Lower Circalittoral
Wave exposureExtremely Exposed
Very Exposed
Moderately Exposed
Tidal stream strength/Water flowVery Strong (>6 kn)
Strong (3-6 kn)
Moderately Strong (1-3 kn)
Weak (<1 kn)
SalinityVariable (18-40 psu)
Reduced (18-30 psu)
Full (30-40 psu)
Low (<18 psu)
Habitat Preferences Additional InformationRasmussen, (1973) records Urticina felina as being very common in banks of Mytilus feeding mostly on gammarids.
Distribution References Hayward et al., 1996, Solé-Cava et al., 1985, Manuel, 1988, Migné & Davoult, 1997(a), Rasmussen, 1973, Picton & Costello, 1998, JNCC, 1999, Moen, 1996, George et al., 1988, Bruce et al., 1963, Braber & Borghouts, 1877,
Reproduction/Life History
Reproductive typeGonochoristic
Developmental mechanismLecithotrophic
Reproductive SeasonApril to June Reproductive LocationWater column
Reproductive frequencyAnnual protracted Regeneration potential No
Life span21-50 years Age at reproductive maturitySee additional information
Generation timeInsufficient information FecundityInsufficient information
Egg/propagule size500-700 micrometres Fertilization typeExternal
Larval/Juvenile dispersal potentialSee additional information Larval settlement periodInsufficient information
Duration of larval stage11-30 days   
Reproduction Preferences Additional Information
  • No information has been found regarding the longevity of Urticina felina but given the large size, slow growth rate and few predators it is likely that it survives for quite a long time. Specimens in aquarium tanks are known to still be flourishing fifty years after collection (P. G. Moore pers. comm.).
  • Age at maturity is not known. Chia & Spaulding (1972) working with the similar (see 'Taxonomy') Tealia crassicornis (see below) found no sign of gonad development at 14 months old. The smallest fertile Urticina lofotensis, a similar species in California, are recorded as at least 18 months old (Wedi & Dunn, 1983).
  • Solé-Cava et al. (1985) considered that sexual reproduction is the most important, if not the only, method of reproduction in Urticina felina. Appeloff (1900) (reported in Chia & Spaulding, 1972) observed that in Europe "Tealia (=Urticina) crassicornis" releases its gametes into the sea and that larval development in independent of the adult. Chia & Spaulding (1972), in observing that Tealia crassicornis from the north-west of the USA (the Pacific coast) has a mode of development similar to that described by Appeloff (almost certainly for what is now called "Urticina felina") suggests that the information they collected on Tealia crassicornis can be used with some validity here. It is not known whether Urticina felina reproduces asexually as do several other anemones (such as Actinia equina and Metridium senile).
  • Stephenson (1935) reports that viviparity has been suspected because of the sudden appearance apparently from "nowhere" of individuals in aquaria.
  • The Plymouth Marine Fauna (Marine Biological Association, 1957) records Urticina felina as breeding in May. Chia & Spaulding (1972) record the similar Tealia crassicornis from San Juan Island on the north-west coast of the USA as spawning in the morning during April, May and June.
  • Chia & Spaulding (1972) bred and grew Tealia crassicornis from the north-west coast of the USA. In Tealia crassicornis, mucus containing gametes were expelled from the mouth. The yellow eggs (500-700 µm diameter) formed little clusters which then broke apart and began to float.
  • The duration of the larval stage may vary. For Tealia crassicornis, Chia & Spaulding (1972) found that nine days after fertilization, the planula was ready to settle and, a further four days after settling, had 4 tentacles. Certain substrata (such as Phyllochaetopterus sp. and Sabellaria cementaria tubes) could induce settlement rapidly in the laboratory. In the absence of inducing substrata larvae could remain in the water column for at least 17 days but settled within the second month after fertilization.
  • The species is probably quite slow growing. Chia & Spaulding (1972) found that fed individuals of the similar Tealia crassicornis were only 10mm in diameter after a year and there was no gonad development present in 14 month old anemones. However, at 18 months, individuals were 4 cm diameter with 60-70 tentacles.
  • Solé-Cava et al. (1994) suggested that the large sub-littoral sea anemone Urticina eques (very similar to Urticina felina) with its large lecithotrophic larvae is probably not truly planktonic and has poor dispersive powers.
Reproduction References Solé-Cava et al., 1985, Chia & Spaulding, 1972., Hand, 1955, Wedi & Dunn, 1983, Spaulding, 1974, Solé-Cava et al., 1994, Solé-Cava & Thorpe, 1992, MBA, 1957, Stephenson, 1935, Wedi & Dunn, 1983, Gosse, 1853,
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