Christmas Tree Worm

Spirobranchus giganteus, thriving in the waters of the Dutch Caribbean. Photo Credit: © 2012 Rudy van GelderenCan you envision an underwater Christmas tree in the middle of the tropics? Do you picture a pine tree? Imagine instead a pine-shaped organism protruding from the seabed.

It’s not the typical green with blinking lights like in the northern winter season. With Caribbean spelled out all year long, the Christmas Tree Worm, Spirobranchus giganteus, is a marine annelid existing in several displays of colour. The plumes, which are the worm’s tentacles, may occur in varieties of orange, yellow, blue and white and can easily be spotted even though it is tiny spanning an average of 3.8 cm (~1.5″).

These sedentary cone-shaped worms spiral outward with twin plumes used to breathe and for filter feeding. Passively feeding on drifting food particles and plankton, the tube-dwelling marine worm anchors itself onto live calcareous corals (porites and brain corals).

S. giganteus are sensitive to disturbances. To avoid threats, they retract their tube in the burrowed coral. These worms occur on coral reefs in tropical water worldwide.

These worms in their decorative costumes enliven the reefs of the Dutch Caribbean, adding a picturesque touch to the marine environment and adding interest to underwater sightseeing and photography.

Source: MarineBio Conservation Society