Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

Sea Pansy

Renilla koellikeri


Fun Facts

    A sea pansy is not a flower, but is an animal that is related to sea jellies.

    Sea pansies are bioluminescent when they are touched or attacked by a predator.



  Sea pansies are purple, fleshy, leaf-shaped marine organisms that live on sandy or muddy sediment. It is a colonial organism, which consists of several individual organisms of the same species living closely together on one structure. The sea pansy colony is divided into a flattened, heart-shaped structure (called the rachis) and a stem (called the peduncle). The peduncle extends into the sand and serves as an anchor for the colony.

The sea pansy has two types of polyps on the upper portion of the body, or rachis. One type of polyp is responsible for feeding. These feeding polyps extend above the sand and secrete a mucus net to capture small prey. The polyps have tentacles and stinging cells enabling them to sting and swallow plankton that become trapped. Each feeding polyp sends its food to a common digestive system so the entire colony feeds as one. The second type of polyp is small, wart-like, and occurs in clusters. This polyp serves to create a water current through the colony.

An exhibit on sea pansy bioluminescence can be found at the Aquarium in the tunnel near the Jelly Lab. Sea pansies are usually found at the Aquarium in tank number 25.