All images Peter Southwood
|False Bay cerianthid
On 28th September 2002 Peter Southwood dived at Photographers Reef, at Boulders, Simon's Town. There he saw what is recorded in his logbook as "Things in tubes that look like anemones, but have short tentacles in the middle and retract when disturbed." Luckily he had a camera with him at the time, so he took a couple of photos. The photos came out OK, but he had no idea what these animals might be. They looked rather like anemones, but had short tentacles in the middle, and lived in floppy grey tubes, which seemed a bit odd for anemones, but the tentacles looked wrong for tubeworms.
In 2003 the False Bay Underwater Club hosted a series of lectures by postgraduate students from UCT on the local Marine ecology, and Peter mentioned these strange critters to one of the lecturers, Robyn Scott, and mailed her a photo. She showed it to Charles Griffiths at UCT and mailed Peter back to say "They are from an order called ceriantharia. This is an order of animals that are very much like anemones. They have greatly elongated bodies adapted for living with secreted tubes buried in sand or mud. There are no known species in S.A. The South African Museum in town has one specimen, and would appreciate any others. Charlie has photographed a Cerianthid in Table Bay, a large animal with white inner as well as outer tentacles. These little guys are different because of their long bodies, inner tentacles as well as the sand tube they build."
Over the course of the next few months Peter and others collected specimens of the False Bay cerianthids from Vogelsteen, in Gordon's Bay, and Table Bay cerianthids from Cape Town harbour, and sent them to anemone taxonomist Dr. Fabian H. Acuna, at Departamento de Ciencias Marinas, Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata, Argentina, who was able to identify the Table Bay specimens as Ceriantheopsis nikitai (see image on left). This was confirmed by Tina N. Molodtsova of the P.P.Shirshov Institute of Oceanology, in Moscow, who originally described the species from Namibia, and is now studying the as yet unidentified False Bay cerianthid which appears to be an undescribed species.