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Animation of nematocyst cell

The diagram above shows the anatomy of a nematocyst cell and its “firing” sequence, from left to right. On the far left is a nematocyst inside its cellular capsule. The cell’s thread is coiled under pressure and wrapped around a stinging barb. When potential prey makes contact with the tentacles of a polyp, the nematocyst cell is stimulated. This causes a flap of tissue covering the nematocyst—the operculum—to fly open. The middle image shows the open operculum, the rapidly uncoiling thread and the emerging barb. On the far right is the fully extended cell. The barbs at the end of the nematocyst are designed to stick into the polyp’s victim and inject a poisonous liquid. When subdued, the polyp’s tentacles move the prey toward its mouth and the nematocysts recoil back into their capsules.