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Sea Worms


The sea worms are a large and varied group of animals belonging to a group called annelida. They are segmented worms, and all bear at least some resemblance to the common earthworm. In the ocean, however, the worms have evolved many different appearances. One of the more interesting varieties is the tube worms. These animals form a hard-shelled tube that provides them protection. The feather duster worms have a series of feathery tentacles on top that are used to filter nutrients from the water. When threatened by predators, they quickly withdraw deep into their tube homes. Another species, the Christmas tree worm, has a very ornate arrangement of feeding tentacles that can be found in a wide variety of bright colors. Some sea worms, such as the bristle worm, wander the sea floor with a covering of tiny bristles that can deliver a painful sting if threatened. The flatworms have flattened bodies and look more like chewing gum as they forage for food on the rocks. Below is a listing of some of the more common worms found on the coral reef.

Christmas Tree Worm (Spirobranchus giganteus)
Photo © Aris Entertainment

Christmas Tree Worm
(Spirobranchus giganteus)

The Christmas tree worm gets its name from the Christmas tree shaped arrangement of its gills. This is also a tubed worm. Christmas tree worms are usually found in colonies encrusting rocks & corals can be seen in nearly every imaginable color. They can be found in the waters of the Caribbean and Indo-Pacific.

Magnificent Feather Duster (Sabellastarte magnifica)
Photo © Corel Corporation

Magnificent Feather Duster
(Sabellastarte magnifica)

The magnificent feather duster is the largest of the feather duster worms found along the Atlantic coast of North America. Its leathery tubes reach a length of  5 inches, with a plume of feathery brown and white gills about 4 inches long. It can be found from Texas to Florida, the Bahamas, and the West Indies.

Large-eyed Feather Duster (Potamilla reniformis)
Photo © Corel Corporation

Large-eyed Feather Duster
(Potamilla reniformis)

The large-eyed feather duster worm can be found growing in leathery tubes approximately 4 inches long. The feathery gills are usually orange-red to reddish-brown in color with white tips. They can be found growing on rocks and shells along the eastern coast of United States from Maine to North Carolina.

Orange Fireworm (Eurythoe complanata)
Photo © Corel Corporation

Orange Fireworm
(Eurythoe complanata)

The fireworms get their name from the extremely painful stings they can deliver from the feathery bristles along their sides. After the sting, the pain and itching can last for weeks. Fireworms can usually be found under rocks and coral heads on the reef and generally reach a size of 6 inches in length.

Red-rim Flatworm (Pseudoceros splendidus)
Photo © Corel Corporation

Red-rim Flatworm
(Pseudoceros splendidus)

The flatworms get their names from their unusual flattened shape. They are found in a wide range of bright colors. These colors serve as a warning to potential predators because the worms excrete a foul-tasting mucus. The Red-rim Flatworm reaches a size of approximately 1 to 2 inches in length.