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Two Tides Blog

Cold water sea life blog. Gulf of Maine biologists share their experiences and marine musings from Cobscook Bay on the coast of Maine! Sea life photos, science, and aquarium discussion. Comment and share your stories and questions!

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How to: Dig Spaghetti Worms

Spaghetti Worm

 U-shaped burrow and castings. The hole ('volcano') is where the mouth of the worm is. The castings pile is the other end of the worm! The middle of the worm is deepest underground, at the center of the U's curve.

U-shaped burrow and castings. The hole ('volcano') is where the mouth of the worm is. The castings pile is the other end of the worm! The middle of the worm is deepest underground, at the center of the U's curve.

Spaghetti worms (Amphitrite spp.) live in super slimy tube burrows. They have a U-shaped burrow with the mouth at one end and their anus at the other end. The appearance of the front end of the worm gives it its name. Looking at the head you will see a bunch of red and tan colored tentacles stretching out of its burrow. The reddish tentacles are used for respiration. The whitish or tan tentacles are used for feeding. 

The worm lives in a burrow for protection. Only the feeding tentacles come up above the bottom. They stretch out in a radius around the burrow and they pick up food particles, plankton, detritus - this is all reeled back into the mouth as a food source. Imagine a worm that is named for the red (tomato sauce) and the tan (pasta) tentacles.

Locating the worm

We find these worms on the mudflat by looking for their piles of poop (castings) that lie in a pile at the end of the U-shaped tube burrow. Another interesting thing about these worms is that they sometimes share their tube with 12-scaled worms. Now, scaled worms are typically found on rocky bottoms in the depressions under the stones. What the advantage is to be tucked down in a tight little tube with a spaghetti worm is beyond me.....it has to be for feeding or protection I would guess. If anyone would like a very interesting research project - this is wide open!

Care

The spaghetti worm is a very versatile lab specimen. You can keep them in a small tub of salt water without any aeration, in a fridge for weeks. Some of our customers use these as a food source for anemones and fish.

 Spaghetti worms ( Amphitrite spp. ).

Spaghetti worms (Amphitrite spp.).

 The front end of the worm toward the bottom of the photograph is tentacled.

The front end of the worm toward the bottom of the photograph is tentacled.