Marine Worms in St Augustine
By Trish Elliott
One of the many activities for the entire family in St. Augustine, FL, is to enjoy the 43 miles of pristine beaches. Zach McKenna and his staff of naturalists and marine experts, of Ecotours of St. Augustine, offer fascinating and detailed adventures to examine the beach life of the area. The creatures include fiddler crabs, oysters, different sea grasses, marine worms, algae, jelly fish, sea glass, and a vast array of coastal birds and reptiles.
But what are marine worms? Why don’t we hear more about them?
There are over 8,00 kinds of different marine worms in the world, and the area around St. Augustine boasts millions of these tiny creatures, called polychaetes. A marine worm is a worm that lives any water area. They usually sport a segmented body, like an earthworm, and often have tiny spikes, and have specialized tentacles that allow them to take in oxygen and give out carbon dioxide. Adults can be free swimming or sedentary, and larvae are free swimming. They are important because they turn over the sediment on the ocean’s bottom and are part of a complicated sea ecosystem. They are often brightly colored, and can grow up to 10 feet.
The Flatworm can be found around the beaches of St. Augustine. This creature typically favors rocky bottom cover, and are not easily spotted. Flatworms are simple animals. They have no circulatory systems, and because their bodies are so flat, oxygen simply penetrates directly into tissue without the benefit of a respiratory system. Flatworms’ mouths take in nutrients and also expel undigested waste. However, these worms are also accomplished predators. When they catch snails, bivalves, or other prey they simply wrap their bodies around their victims and inject them with digestive enzymes.
The spaghetti worm typically hides in rocks or crevices. Though a typical worm’s body is only 6 inches long, its tentacles may spread out over six times that length. Spaghetti worm tentacles employ grooves to channel small organic particles to the worm’s mouth, or simply grab and stuff larger morsels. If a tentacle is lost or snapped up by a fish, a new one can be grown to take its place, much like the earthworm.
Another fascinating marine worm is The Feather Duster Worm because it fans out and resembles the softness of a feather duster. Its feathers are actually tentacles that feature a line of fine hairs, and catch the light. These bottom-dwelling worms use these fans to gather plankton and other bits of floating food, as well as to take in the oxygen they need to survive. Some feather dusters have fans as large as six inches across. Feather duster worms build their own tubes, using mucus and bits of sand or mud, and then live within them attached to hard seafloor surfaces. The worms can retract completely into their tubes when threatened by an animal or even a sudden motion or light. The “feather duster” crown sticking out of a typical tube is a suite of tentacles that adorns the worm’s head. They are fascinating creatures that come in a lovely array of colors.
The yellow marine worm is one of some 8,000 species of Polychaetes, named for the many bristles that typically cover their bodies. Polychaetes are holdovers from a far more ancient Earth. They appear in the fossil record at least as early as the Cambrian period, 540 to 490 million years ago.
Fireworms are edged in deep red, and boast an array of toxic bristles. These bristles have hollow tubes filled with poison, which break easily when touched, to discourage predators. They also inflict a painful rash on any human who handles them. Fireworms are carnivores that feast on corals, snails, or other worms. They surprise and snare such fare with hidden jaws concealed inside an innocent-looking, rounded front end.
Make sure you take one of Ecotours of St. Augustine’s beach tours, and you will learn about many sea creatures, as well as the simple but highly functional sea worm!
Plan your Eco tour by visiting Zach and team at: St Augustine Ecotours.com
Source: Baret News Wire