Fleshy, beard-like appendage on head (caruncle). Short tufts of white bristles and red gill filaments line the sides of the body. Red, green, yellow or brown.
Found beneath stones in rocky areas, on reefs and on some muddy bottoms along the reef. They are found in depths of up to 150m, however they can also be found close to the surface in wreckage.
Predators which feed on soft and hard corals, sea anemones, and small crustaceans and other invertebrates. The worm can engulf tip of the coral within its pharynx and remove the coral tissue directly from the skeleton, typically within 5-10 minutes. However these worms are also scavengers. They identify prey using an olfactory organ called a caruncle which is also used to search and track prey across a habitat
They are highly mobile and are mainly active at night, and least active during the middle of the day. They are very slow creatures and generally not a threat unless touched. However, the bristles, when flared, can penetrate human skin, injecting a powerful neurotoxin and producing intense irritation and a painful burning sensation around the area of contact. The sting can also lead to nausea and dizziness.
Females produce a pheromone attracting and signalling the males to shed sperm which in turn stimulates females to shed eggs, this behavior is known as swarming. Gametes are spawned through the metanephridia or body wall rupturing (termed as "epitoky", wherein a pelagic, reproductive individual, "epitoke", is formed from a benthic, nonreproductive individual, "atoke"). After fertilization, most eggs become planktonic; although some are retained in the worm tubes or burrowed in jelly masses attached to the tubes (egg brooders). Eggs develop into trocophore larva, which later metamorph into juvenile stage (body lengthened), and later develop into adults.
They can also reproduce asexually by fragmentation,separating their body into two or more fragments, which regenerate to produce a head and tail, growing into new individuals.
| Ecological Descriptors
|Co, R (M)
||Co (Ech, Cru, Sca)