> Phylum Annelida > Class Echiura
Spoon worms are sometimes seen above ground on our Northern shores,
near seagrass areas.
What are spoon worms? Spoon worms
are worms belonging to Phylum Annelida like
the more familiar earthworm. Although spoon worms are not segmented
like other annelids, and some scientists place them in their own Phylum.
There are only about 150 species of spoon worms, but they can be quite
common in some marine ecosystems.
Features: Those seen on our shores
about 10cm long. Body unsegmented and sausage-like. In front of its
mouth, it has a spoon-shaped thing, called a prostomium. The prostomium
can extend up to 10 times its retracted length, in some species, reaching
2m long! In most, the prostomium is used to gather edible bits from
the surface. Many live in U-shaped burrows in shallow water, others
in rock or coral crevices.
Sometimes mistaken for 'uprooted'
sea anemones or sea cucumbers. More on how
to tell apart sausage-shaped animals.
do they eat? Most are deposit feeders, collecting edible
bits from the bottom of the sea. They do this by placing the prostomium
against the surface and forming a kind of gutter over the surface.
Tiny hairs on the surface of the prostomium bring edible bits to the
Spoon babies: Spoon worms have
separate genders. Eggs and sperm are released simultaneously into
the water. The free swimming larvae eventually settle down.
Changi, Aug 08
in the ecosystem: Apparently, echiurans may be important
food for some fishes. In a study of Leopard sharks off California,
large, meaty spoon worms were found to be their favourite food.