Underwater Christmas Trees?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014 by Katie

Can you figure out what kind of marine organism looks just like the Christmas tree you might have in your home right now?

If you guessed a worm, you are correct!

The Christmas Tree Worm, Spirobranchus giganteus, is a very colorful marine worm with spiraling plumes that resemble a fir tree. They can be found in shallow water on tropical coral reefs throughout the world. The worms in the photo were observed while snorkeling in Key Largo, Florida. These really cool critters are very colorful and can be blue, red, orange, yellow, brown, black, or white.

The part of the worm that looks like the Christmas tree is called the radiole, which can be up to about 1-1/2 inches across. Each worm has two of these plumes and they are used for catching plankton and for respiration. The rest of their bodies are burrowed into holes in the coral. If the worm feels threatened, it can quickly retract into the hole for protection! Pretty neat adaptation!

Underwater Christmas Trees?


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