Spirorbis tube worms

Spirorbis tube worms ©Nigel Phillips

Spirorbis tube worm

Scientific name: Spirorbis spirorbis
Ever noticed lots of little white spirals on seaweed fronds on rocky shores? These are tiny tube worms!

Species information

Statistics

Width: 3-4mm

Conservation status

Common

When to see

January to December

About

The Spirorbis tube worm is a regular feature on our rocky shores, with large numbers spotted on individual seaweeds. They particularly like the fronds of Serrated wrack and Bladder wrack and are also found on the underside of stones in rockpools. The worm lives permanently inside these white, smooth spiral tubes and is only a few millimetres long and bright orange in colour. They are filter feeders, using a crown of tentacles to catch small particles from the water column when the tide is in.

How to identify

A small white spiral shell found on the fronds of seaweeds or under stones in the rocky shore. They are often found in high densities.

Distribution

Found on rocky shores all around UK coasts.

Did you know?

The Spirorbis tube worm builds its own calcareous tube using special glands in its upper body segment.

How people can help

When rockpooling, be careful to leave everything as you found it - replace any rocks you turn over, put back any crabs or fish and ensure not to scrape anything off its rocky home. If you want to learn more about our rockpool life, Wildlife Trusts around the UK run rockpool safaris and offer Shoresearch training - teaching you to survey your local rocky shore. The data collected is then used to protect our coasts and seas through better management or through the designation of Marine Protected Areas. The Wildlife Trusts are working with sea users, scientists, politicians and local people towards a vision of 'Living Seas', where marine wildlife thrives. Do your bit for our Living Seas by supporting your local Wildlife Trust or checking out our Action Pages.