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worms > Phylum Annelida > Class Echiura
Spoon worms
Phylum Echiura
updated Feb 14

Where seen? 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 Echiura. Some scientist place them in Phylum Annelidae like the more familiar earthworm. Spoon worms are not segmented like other annelids. 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.

What 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 mouth.

Spoon babies: Spoon worms have separate genders. Eggs and sperm are released simultaneously into the water. The free swimming larvae eventually settle down.

Role 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.

Changi, Aug 08

Spoon-shaped prostomium.


Chek Jawa, Feb 07

Spoon worms on Singapore shores
Photos for free download from wildsingapore flickr

Links

References

  • Edward E. Ruppert, Richard S. Fox, Robert D. Barnes. 2004.Invertebrate Zoology Brooks/Cole of Thomson Learning Inc., 7th Edition. pp. 963
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