The Kraken wakes, pt. 2

For a long while, scientists have known that sea anemones — those lovely, flowery sea creatures — grow in large colonies of genetically identical clones. When these colonies grow to the point where they meet, they actually fight one another for territory. That’s pretty excellent on its own, but now a couple of researchers have discovered that the anemone armies are highly organized, with “castes of warriors, scouts, reproductives and other types”, according to a release from the University of California at Davis explains. As the scientists discovered:

When the tide is out, the polyps are contracted and quiet. As the tide covers the colonies, “scouts” move out into the border to look for empty space to occupy. Larger, well-armed “warriors” inflate their stinging arms and swing them around. Towards the center of the colony, poorly armed “reproductive” anemones stay out of the fray and conduct the clone’s business of breeding.

When anemones from opposing colonies come in contact, they usually fight. But after about 20 or 30 minutes of battle the clones settle down to a truce until the next high tide.

Man, that reads like the plot summary of some demented, unwritten sci-fi novel.

(Thanks to Boing Boing for this one!)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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