These beautiful organisms are actually underwater worms in the shape of Christmas trees. The tree shape of the worm comes from its gills. When the Christmas Tree Worm senses danger is near, it quickly pulls in its gills and hides in its tube secured within its host coral. Photo courtesy Nick Hobgood
Greetings and Happy Holidays to you! Ok – I think you’ll find this pretty cool, especially since you and I are in the heart of the Holiday Season. Did you know that there is actually a living organism in the ocean called a Christmas Tree Worm? Well – there is! Scientists first discovered the Christmas Tree Worm in 1766. Its awesome looking tree top crown comes in a variety of colors, however it is always paired. And even more interesting, you can only see the worm’s crown, which is visible in the beautiful shape of the Christmas tree! Christmas Tree worms are not very big at all. In fact, they only average about 1.5 inches in length. But, I’m sure you’ll agree, they sure know how to throw out magnificent, awesome color!
The Christmas Tree Worm’s body is hidden within the host coral where it lives. You can usually find several Christmas Tree Worms living in the same area. That’s right – they’re basically sedentary, much like the celebrated Christmas tree once it is up and decorated! The Christmas Tree Worm doesn’t like to move around much, and it prefers to stay in the shaded area of any rocky seascapes, out of the sun’s bright rays angling down into the water.
Each worm has two bright colored crowns that extend up from its tube-shaped body. These two Christmas tree crowns are actually made of radioles (hair-like appendages growing from the worm’s central spine). The Christmas Tree Worm uses these appendages to catch its food, which mainly consists of microscopic plants, or phytoplankton, which floats about in the water.
The unique and colorful Christmas Tree worm (spirobranchus giganteus) celebrates the 2018 Holidays underwater! Christmas Tree worms are not very big. In fact, they only average 1.5 inches in length. But they sure know how to display magnificent, awesome color! Celebrate their natural beauty. Photo Courtesy (NOAA)
If something nearby startles the Christmas Tree Worm, it quickly disappears into its coral burrow, hiding from any approaching predator. According to a recent study, Christmas Tree Worms “may live for a decade or more (some for more than 40 years), based on counting the annual growth bands in the coral skeleton overlaying polychaete tubes.”
And researchers discovered the Christmas tree worm might actually protect certain types of corals from bleaching.
If you are in Florida and you see a sick or injured manatee, please call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at: 1-888-404-FWCC. They are the folks who are responsible for rescuing us in Florida.
Here’s the Save the Manatee Clublink to learn more about manatees …
Here’s a cool link for you to learn more about how we’re rescued and brought into rehabilitation …
~ Kobee Manatee