Image: Family Terebellidae: Loimia n. sp

Family Terebellidae: Loimia n. sp

Family Terebellidae: Loimia n. sp. (specimen from Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef, photographed in the laboratory but still alive).

Gary Cranitch
© Gary Cranitch


This animal is about 2-3 cm in length and it belongs to a yet undescribed and unnamed species. The worm lives in a muddy tube from which it has been taken out to reveal its structure. Abundant white contractile tentacles are spread out over the surface. Each tentacle is an upside down U –shaped in cross section., with the walls covered in fine cilia (hairs) which beat to create a water current which act like vacuum cleaners, drawing food particles , a method of provisioning known as surface deposit feeding. This is achieved by the continuous beating motion of fine hairs (or “cilia”) lining the grooves of the tentacles, creating water currents which suck particles of food into the grooves, where they are wrapped in mucus and transported to the mouth. The tentacles also contain chemicals that make worms unpalatable to fish. Larger particles are used in tube construction and the muddy tube needs to be continually maintained. The worm can also “cough” and eject the particles some way away from the worm. A common name for these worms is “spaghetti worms” as divers just see the long white tentacles spread out over the substrate which when touched rapidly contract back into the substrate. These tentacles contain chemical compounds which makes them unpalatable to passing fish.

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