Mobile
Action Join Donate
MarineBio Conservation Society Ocean Conservation Marine Life Species Database Education+Careers Projects Sponsors Contributors Photos Videos News Contact
pinterest

Christmas Tree Worms, Spirobranchus giganteus

Loading species photos...
Loading species photos...

Description & Behavior

Christmas tree worms, Spirobranchus giganteus, are Christmas tree-shaped serpulid tube-dwelling worms with magnificent twin spirals of plumes used for feeding and respiration. These cone-shaped worms are one of the most widely recognized sedentary polychaete worms. They come in many colors including orange, yellow, blue, and white and, though they are small with an average 3.8 cm in span, they are easily spotted due to their shape, beauty, and color. The colorful plumes, or tentacles, are used for passive feeding on suspended food particles and plankton in the water. The plumes are also used for respiration. Though the plumes are visible, most of these worms are anchored in their burrows that they bore into live calcareous coral. Christmas tree worms are very sensitive to disturbances and will rapidly retract into their burrows at the slightest touch or passing shadow. They typically re-emerge a minute later, very slowly, to test the water before fully extending their plumes.

World Range & Habitat

Christmas tree worms, Spirobranchus giganteus, are found on coral reefs in tropical waters worldwide.

Feeding Behavior (Ecology)

Christmas tree worms, Spirobranchus giganteus, are polychaete ciliary feeders that feed using their radioles, the hair-like appendages or "feathers" that circle outward from the central spine, to catch phytoplankton floating by in the water. The food is then passed down a food groove by ciliary tracts — lines of tiny hair-like extensions on the surface of cells that generate water currents to move food or mucus. The food particles are sorted and larger particles are discarded. Sand grains are directed to storage sacs to be used later for tube building.

Life History

There are both male and female Christmas tree worms, Spirobranchus giganteus. They reproduce by casting their eggs and sperm into the water. The eggs are fertilized in the water then develop into larvae that settle on coral heads and then burrow into the coral to form their burrows.

Conservation Status & Comments

Christmas tree worms, Spirobranchus giganteus, are not dangerous to humans.

References & Further Research

Jeff's Nudibranch Site and Coral Reef Gallery
Polychaete (aka "bristleworm") FAQ For Reefkeepers, Reefs.org

Research Spirobranchus giganteus » Barcode of Life ~ BioOne ~ Biodiversity Heritage Library ~ CITES ~ Cornell Macaulay Library [audio / video] ~ Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) ~ ESA Online Journals ~ FishBase ~ Florida Museum of Natural History Ichthyology Department ~ GBIF ~ Google Scholar ~ ITIS ~ IUCN RedList (Threatened Status) ~ Marine Species Identification Portal ~ NCBI (PubMed, GenBank, etc.) ~ Ocean Biogeographic Information System ~ PLOS ~ SCIRIS ~ SIRIS ~ Tree of Life Web Project ~ UNEP-WCMC Species Database ~ WoRMS

Search for Christmas Tree Worms » ARKive ~ Ask.com ~ Bing ~ dmoz ~ Flickr ~ Google ~ OceanFootage ~ Picsearch ~ Wikipedia ~ Yahoo! Images ~ YouTube

Feedback & Citation

Start or join a discussion about this species below or send us an email to report any errors or submit suggestions for this page. We greatly appreciate all feedback!


~^~ surface

Help Protect and Restore Ocean Life

Help us protect and restore marine life by supporting our various online community-centered marine conservation projects that are effectively sharing the wonders of the ocean with millions each year around the world, raising a balanced awareness of the increasingly troubling and often very complex marine conservation issues that affect marine life and ourselves directly, providing support to marine conservation groups on the frontlines that are making real differences today, and the scientists, teachers and students involved in the marine life sciences. Join us today or show your support with a monthly donation.

With your support, most marine life and their ocean habitats can be protected, if not restored to their former natural levels of biodiversity. We sincerely thank our thousands of members, donors and sponsors, who have decided to get involved and support the MarineBio Conservation Society.