Many people’s favorite part of the holiday season are the brightly colored decorations that go up everywhere. The Christmas tree worm, Spirobranchus giganteus, also comes in a variety of festive colors. This worm is one of the most recognizable marine polycheates because of their shape. Yep, they look like little Christmas trees under water!
These worms live in warm, tropical waters. They build themselves a calcium-based tube to live in, which is then attached to a coral reef. Most of their body remains hidden in the tube, but their two feathery plumes stick out into the water. These spiral-shaped radioles serve two functions – they trap food, and they are also the worm’s gills. These worms are suspension feeders, which means they feed on drifting particles and plankton in the water. When threatened or disturbed they retract into their tube.
So next time you look around and see all the decorations and lights remember the Christmas Tree Worm!