The Christmas Tree Worm is a fascinating tube-building polychaete worm and lives in most tropical oceans. In fact, they have been found from the Indo-Pacific region to the Caribbean.
While they hold no importance to commercial fishing, they naturally remain popular with divers and underwater photographers.
This species possesses both male and female genders, unlike some of its relatives. They reproduce by releasing eggs and spermatozoa directly into the water. These combine at random while being carried by the ocean currents.
Christmas Tree Worm Ecology
This animal most commonly inhabits coral reefs. They secrete a calcareous tube around their body which serves as both protection and home.
Typically, they also dig a hole in the coral reef before secreting their tube which effectively provides them with a double layer of protection. This obviously makes the Christmas Tree Worm a sedentary creature.
The species feeds as a filter feeder. The brilliantly colored radioles filter microorganisms out of the water which are then fed directly into the animal’s digestive system.
Very few creatures prey upon this species.
Christmas Tree Worm Description and Behavior
The radioles of the Christmas Tree Worm form two spirals wrapping around their tube. These appear to be useful for both feeding and respiration.
They usually appear bright in color and colors commonly include blue, yellow, orange, and white.
Adults average roughly 1.5 in (3.8 cm) in width. Only the portion of the tube presenting these brilliantly colored parts remains visible. The rest of the body stays protected within its tube.
These creatures seem to be extremely sensitive to disturbances in the water. They withdraw into their tubes rapidly at even the slightest provocation. However, they also typically re-emerge slowly a few moments later.