We have been thinking about what could be a good topic in the Christmas period and came up with the idea to write some words about the colorful Christmas tree worms. Are you ready for our biology session? Get to know these interesting creatures!
Christmas tree worms, multicolored spiraling structures
If you are a snorkeler I am sure you have already seen Christmas tree worms. They are one of the most favourite photo object of underwater macro photographers because of their vibrant colors and detailed structure.
These worms can be found in coral environment in tropical and subtropical waters all over the world, usually between 10 and 100 ft (3-30 m) but we often see them on 3-6 ft (1-2 m) deep during snorkelling.
They also known under the name of Spirobranchus giganteus but I think nobody search them like this 🙂 It is so clear, they look like christmas trees, a central tube and the radioles form two spiraling structures.
They are not so big, their normal size is between 1,5-2 inches (4-5 cm). They are commonly seen in bright shades of pink, red, yellow and blue, but there are white and brown ones aswell, they don’t have a grey life for sure!
They’re also known for being shy, retracting into their tubes when they sense movement in the water. They can seal themselves in using an operculum, a specialized body structure that opens and closes like a door. The worms slowly re-emerge about a minute later, making sure the coast is clear before fully extending themself.
Life of the Christmas tree worms
These worms have two parts in their life, the larval phase and the adult phase. The larval phase is not so long (few hours-several weeks), the larva worms live in open water and feed only on plankton. As an adult worm they build a burrow in the coral, create a tube where they stay in their whole life.
The Christmas tree worms can live up to 20-40 years. Their life is so simple, need only good water quality and plankton. They extend their tiny “feathers” to breathe and gather food. They are covered with a hairlike cilia that helps them trap plankton and pass the food to its mouth.
The worms never build burrow on top of each other. If it is time to reproduction, the males releasing sperms and the females releasing their eggs into the same area where fertilization happens.
The Christmas tree worms are under no threath of extinction, howewer they are also in danger. The coral bleaching, changes of water temperature effects them directly. Unfortunately they are collected for the aquarium industry aswell, however in artificial environment they live not so long.
Are you a big fan of Christmas tree worms, do you have great photos of them? Send us and we will share, of course we give photo credit!
Anett fell in love with the ocean immediately when she put her head underwater in the Red Sea back in 2010. Discovering megacities is not her style but getting lost in tiny coastal villages, capturing the beauty of the sea while snorkeling. Wherever she goes, she takes her mask, fins and underwater camera with her. She has a big interest in exploring the world’s last hidden underwater paradises and marine conservation. She hopes to inspire people to protect our oceans by sharing her underwater stories. Find her photos on @anett.szaszi Instagram too!