When the Abundance of Food Makes New Arms Grow

Researchers made the discovery by breeding 1,100 star anemones (Nematostella vectensis) in the lab for six months and monitoring the amount of shrimp available. When the anemones were well fed, a new pair of tentacles appeared in three to four days. This was also the case if they were prevented from reproducing. In contrast, when on a diet, anemones stopped developing new limbs.

Scientists also established the order and place of appearance of the tentacles on the body of anemones. In adulthood, their number reaches between 16 and 24 and these limbs allow them to grab food and take the pulse of their environment. This last function is particularly important, these animals being nailed in place. And some species of anemones can live more than 60 years.

Anemones are therefore one of the few animals that can develop new limbs, even in adulthood. It is however the first time that we observe that the abundance of food influences this “creation”.