About Polychaetes: Marine Worms to You and Me

Worms may be fairly low on most reef visitors’ bucket lists but they’re super-important members of the reef environment. Overwhelmingly Polychaetes – that is, segmented worms lined with little limb-like appendages – they’re key prey in the marine food web and themselves important consumers of organic debris in the sediments.   FOR OUR PURPOSES – THAT IS, FOR SEEING THE REEF – marine worms come in three categories: The flashy tube worms we see all the time –

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Christmas Tree Worms: Beautiful (and Wormy)

EVERYBODY RAVES ABOUT THE BEAUTY OF CHRISTMAS TREE WORMS (Spirobranchus giganteus), with their fantastic arrays of bright colors and shapes like perfect fir trees. The wormy bodies behind the gorgeous finery, maybe not so much. The spiraling crowns we see are specialized tentacles, called radioles, that filter plankton from the  surrounding waters for food, passing it down to the worm’s mouth in cilia-lined grooves. They also work like “gills” to let the animals absorb oxygen.

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