M A R I N E    W O R M S

Marine Life


Marine worms can be placed into more than ten different phyla and come in a variety of colours, shapes, and sizes. Marine worms are often confused with other animals with thin and long bodies. Most marine worms are grouped into the Annelids, a group that includes the Polychaetes (bristle worms), Oligochaetes, Hirudinae, and the Eunice aphroditois.


Marine worms powerpoint from Smithtown High School West


Polychaetes are most often found near the shoreline and swim or crawl using a pair of legs found on each segment of their body.
The Oligochaetes, which include earthworms, are mainly found on land and the subclass Hirudinae include leeches that usually live in freshwater environments. Some marine worm species, such as the bearded fire worm, can deliver a nasty burning sting to humans when handled.


The body structure of an annelid consists of a front end with a prostomium, also referred to as a significantly defined head. Most annelids have two pairs of eyes, three antennae, a pharynx or proboscis used to eat food and tentacle-like cirri for probing the surrounding area. An example of the biodiversity of worm species is the Sipunculid also known as the peanut worm. This worm digs itself into a hole underneath rocks, eats organic material, has no segments and looks like a peanut when it pulls its proboscis into itself.



In general, marine worms live underneath rocks near the edge of the ocean, in algae, or anywhere there is mud or sand. Species of marine worms can be ringed, segmented, or flat and include tube-digging worms, burrow-dwelling worms, ribbon worms, and peanut worms.
Some common annelids include the tube-making Galeoloaria, the stinging fireworm, the short scale worm, and the huge Eunice aphroditois. Tube worms actually make a tube with a hard shell and retreat into the shell when threatened. The Christmas tree worm has many brightly coloured feather-like tentacles shaped somewhat like a Christmas tree that is used to filter food from the water.
The most common worms on Malta are the Tube worm, The Bearded Fire worm (stinging), Bonellia Viridis, and a variety of flat worms.



Bonelia Viridis - Green Spoonworm

The green spoonworm (Bonellia viridis) is a marine worm (phylum Echiura) noted for displaying exceptional sexual dimorphism and for the biocidal properties of a pigment in its skin.

The species is wide-ranging, found in the north-eastern Atlantic Ocean, Indian and Pacific Oceans, and the Mediterranean and Red seas. The pale- to dark-green female, with a 15 cm-long, round or sausage-shaped body, lives on the sea-floor at a depth of 10 to 100 metres, concealed by burrowing in gravel or hiding in rock crevasses or burrows abandoned by other animals. It has two anchoring hooks underneath its body and an extensible feeding proboscis up to 10 times its body-length. It is mainly a detritivore, feeding also on small animals. The male is rarely observed: it has a flat, unpigmented body which grows to only 13 mm, taken up mostly by reproductive organs and devoid of other structures; it lives on or inside the body of a female.


The adult Bonellia female produces a vivid green pigment in its skin, known as bonellin. This chemical, concentrated mostly in the proboscis, is highly toxic to other organisms, capable of paralyzing small animals. In the presence of light, bonellin is a very effective biocide, killing bacteria, larva of other organisms, and red blood cells in laboratory tests (info from Wikipedia).


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