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Monday, March 4, 2013

Quite a worm!

If you've been following the blog during the past month or so, you can probably tell that we've been drawn to exploring kelp holdfasts on Salmon Creek Beach.  We looked at a few more this past weekend, and were rewarded once again with some nice discoveries and are excited to share them with you.

This is a marine worm called Sabellaria cementarium.  The species name, "cementarium," refers to this worm's habit of cementing together sand grains and pieces of shell to form a tube that it lives in.  You might see these tubes attached to rocks and shells in the intertidal and subtidal zones around Bodega Head.  (The tubes we found this weekend were ~20-30 mm long.)

The worm has an operculum or a "trap door" to seal the tube when pulled in; the operculum is shiny gold in the photos.

Notice the abundant black speckles and the bright red stripes.

From some angles, iridescent blue lines also appeared.  And a beautiful green hue was visible at the base of the tentacles.

When we encountered these worms (in a Bull Kelp holdfast), a few of them were outside of their tubes.  The fuschia and tangerine orange colors along the middle and tail ends of their bodies were almost unbelievable.  When you think of local worms, do you think of them being this color?

The next view shows an entire worm outside of its tube.  I photographed it this way to show you how striking this species is, but it might make you feel better to know that they can rebuild their tubes.

Here are two close-ups showing the tentacles that are used for feeding.  

The tentacles have cilia (hair-like structures) that move food particles towards the mouth.

I've read a little bit about Sabellaria cementarium during the last couple of days, but I've yet to find a description that mentions these amazing colors.  This is quite a worm!  Maybe the next time you see a small sandy tube attached to a rock at your feet, you'll imagine the colorful worm inside!

P.S.  Sandcastle Worms (Phragmatopoma californica) look similar to Sabellaria, but they have a black operculum rather than a golden operculum see photos here.


Anonymous said...

Jackie, thank you for continuing to open our eyes to the amazing beauty in tiny creatures. Most of the people I know, when we hear the word "worm," don't think of attaching the word "beautiful" to it. Your blog continues to shift my awareness of what constitutes beauty. Thank you!

Amy said...

I really love your appreciation for how fabulous annelids are... I think they are beautiful and so impressively colored too, but generally lack your eloquence. Great pictures and descriptions.