Student Research Projects

Starved versus fed anemones: Can the zooxanthellae do it all?

Student Isaiah Beasely '15 (Biology)
Faculty Mentor(s)
Department Biology
Course Biology 489: Research in the Natural Sciences


Corals and sea anemones have a symbiotic relationship with zooxanthellae. From this relationship the cnidarians receive nutrients from the zooxanthellae, and the sea anemones and corals provide protection for the zooxanthellae. The goal of my research was to determine if the sea anemone, Aiptasia pallida, can survive solely from the nutrients from their photosynthetic zooxanthellae, or if additional nutrients are necessary for growth. I tested this by measuring the change in size in starved anemones vs. fed anemones in the presence of light. My hypothesis was that both sets of anemones would increase in size; however the fed anemones would show a greater increase. Contrary to my hypothesis, preliminary data results indicate an overall decrease in mass in both fed and starved anemones. Factors such as quality of light and selected prey may have contributed to mass loss.


Recipient of a Virginia Wesleyan Undergraduate Research Grant for Research, 2015.