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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