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Christmas Tree Worm

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Saved by Kathleen Shampoop
on May 27, 2013 at 9:12:24 pm

Purple Sea Urchin Purple Sea Urchin Christmas Tree Worm



Spirobranchus giganteus, the creatures more commonly known as the christmas tree worms are annelids and a part of the family Serpulidae. Christmas tree worms are sedentary polychaetes meaning they are incapable of movement. They always come in a pair.They have multiple layers of crowns and are colourful, often red but can be a variety of colours. They are soft bodied with defensive bristles covering them. Gills are a Christmas tree worm’s way of breathing. Oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged throught the surface of the plumes.


They commonly make a tubular home for themselves made of mud, shells, cemented sand or calcium carbonate. They live in these tubes their entire lives. Outside of the tube, there are lots of branches with plumes sticking out. These branches create a shape similar to that of a Christmas Tree which is where the worm gets its name.


To reproduce, Christmas tree worms of opposite sexes with cast their eggs and sperm into the water. The eggs will then develop in to tiny larvae once fertilized. The tiny larvae then move onto coral heads, creating little burrows and settling in.


When frightened or alarmed, they withdraw their braches to protect themselves.

Link to video of Christmas tree worms retracting/withdrawing their branches: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EDpG1YfHENY




Most Christmas tree worms attach their tube to a rock, shell, coral head, or any other solid surface. Christmas tree worms most commonly attach themselves to and live their entire lives coral reefs. They are widespread and live in tropical oceans around the world.


Predator Adaptions


Sea urchins, flounders, parrot fish, lobsters, puddingwifes, stingrays, schoolmasters, and sea stars area all pretadors of Christmas tree worms. If a shadow passes above or any motion is sensed, Christmas tree worms will quickly withdraw their branches in an attempt to protect themselves from any possible predators passing by.


Prey Adaptions- same as above


Christmas tree worms have adapted to eating the passing plankton in the water around them with filter feeding. They have a series of branches with plumes placed elaborately along them and plankton in trapped in them. The plankton caught is then moved towards the creature’s mouth. These Plumes also act as gills.


Symbiotic interactions- same as above


Porites Coral has a symbiotic relationship with Christmas tree worms. Nutrition is taken from the coral by the Christmas tree worm. This relationship is a mutualistic relationship since the Christmas tree worms live on the coral in search of protection and food and the Christmas tree worms provide protection for the coral from predators. The way they protect the coral is when a predator swims by, they will most likely ignore the coral and just try to attack the worm instead.

The coral returns the favor with protection in burrows or tiny caves, and food.


Species comparison:Split-Crown Feather Duster Worm




Christmas Tree Worms and Split-Crown Feather Duster Worms are both annelids. They both have many branches with plumes that extend out. They both live in the same kind of tube and when scared or startled, they both can retract and withdraw their branches in the blink of an eye. They also both use their plumes to filter feed plankton and to breath.





Their appearances are very different. Split crown feather duster worms have symmetrical 2 crowns next to each other while Christmas tree worms have multiple layers of crowns. Split-Crown Feather Duster Worms are always the same color while Christmas tree worms can found in a variety of colors.


Works Cited


["Animal Fact Files." BBC News. BBC, July 2005. Web. 27 May 2013.

["Christmas Tree Worm." About.com Marine Life. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 May 2013.

[DeVantier, M., R. E. Reichelt, and R. H. Bradbury. "Does Spirobranchus Giganteus Protect Host Porites from Predation by Acanthaster Planci: Predator Pressure as a Mechanism of Coevolution?" Int-res. N.p., 18 Sept. 1986. Web.

["Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary Cnidarian Species List." Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary Cnidarian Species List. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 May 2013.

["FOSS Diversity of Life: Database Collection:." FOSS Diversity of Life: Database Collection:. FOSS, 19 Nov. 2004. Web. 27 May 2013.

["Great Barrier Reef Diving, Snorkeling & Sailing Tours with Small, Fun Groups." Web log post. New Horizon Sail Dive. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 May 2013.

[H, Mark. "Daily Kos." Web log post. : Marine Life Series: Christmas Tree Worms. N.p., 13 Dec. 2008. Web. 27 May 2013.

[LaRoche, Carolyn. "Symbiotic Relationships in Coral Reefs | EHow." EHow. Demand Media, 13 Nov. 2010. Web. 27 May 2013.

[Shimek, Ronald L., Ph. D. "Filter-Feeding Food, Featherdusters, And Phytoplankton." Innovative Marine Aquaculture. Innovative Marine Aquaculture, n.d. Web. 27 May 2013.

["Spirobranchus Giganteus — Details." Encyclopedia of Life. EOL, n.d. Web. 27 May 2013.

["Split-Crown Feather Duster." Split-Crown Feather Duster. Reef News, 1998. Web. 27 May 2013.

[Symbiotic Relationships in Coral Reefs. N.p., n.d. Web.




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