The Christmas Tree Worm (Spirobranchus giganteus) is a colorful marine worm with beautiful, spiraling plumes that resemble a fir tree. These animals are colorful, and can be red, orange, yellow, blue and white.
The "Christmas tree" shown here are the animal's radioles, which can be up to about 1-1/2 inches across. Each worm has two of these plumes. The rest of their bodies are burrowed into holes in the coral. If it worm feels threatened, it can withdraw into the hole to protect itself.
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Annelida
- Class: Polychaeta
- Subclass: Canalipalpata
- Order: Sabellida
- Family: Serpulidae
- Genus: Spirobranchus
- species: giganteus
The Christmas tree worm lives on tropical coral reefs throughout the world, in relatively shallow waters less than 100 feet deep.
The Christmas tree worm's plumes are used for feeding and respiration. Christmas tree worms use their plumes to catch plankton and other small particles passing in the water. Cilia then pass the food to the worm's mouth.
There are male and female Christmas tree worms. They reproduce by sending eggs and sperm into the water. Fertilized eggs develop into larvae that settle on coral.
Christmas tree worm populations are thought to be stable.
References and Further Information:
- Encyclopedia of Life. Spirobranchus giganteus
- NOAA National Ocean Service. What Are Christmas Tree Worms?
- NOAA Encyclopedia of the Sanctuaries. Christmas Tree Worm.
- University of Queensland. Great Barrier Reef Invertebrates: Spirobranchus giganteus.