This beautiful worm is sometimes seen on some of our shores. Once
seen swimming actively at night, in groups of about about 6-8. It
is also sometimes seen washed ashore in large numbers on Changi beach.
Although it is among the most beautiful of our worms, its bristles
can give a nasty and painful rash. Don't touch them.
What is a fire worm? It is a segmented
bristleworm belonging to the Family Amphinomidae, Class Polychaeta,
Phylum Annelida. The polychaetes include bristleworms, and Phylum
Annelida includes the more familiar earthworm. Many members of the
Family Amphinomidae are known as fireworms because of the burning
pain they produce when handled.
Features: About 10cm long. The
worm is flat and broad with lots of elaborate hairy bristles along
its sides, and a pattern of triangles or spots along the centre of
the upper side of the body. According to Leslie Harris, the one with
the circles in the centre of the segments is Chloeia flava.
The other with triangles in the centre of the segments remains unknown.
It is said that these worms swarm at the surface during breeding season.
Otherwise, they usually hide under stones and rocks.
worms! The bristles are sharp easily penetrating bare skin. The bristles are filled with toxins. When irritated, the bristles are erected and break off easily, releasing the toxic contents into the wound. These cause a burning sensation, intense itching, inflammation
and numbness that can last for days and even weeks.
How to stay safe:
Wear covered shoes and long pants to cover all skin exposed
to water. Do not touch bristleworms.
What does it eat? The worm is a predator, feeding on coral polyps, sponges, anemones, hydroids and ascidians. It lacks jaws but sucks out the juices of the prey.
Raffles Marina, Apr 04
Changi, May 08
ashore and attacked by springtails.
fireworms on Singapore shores
Berlayar Creek, Oct 15
Photo shared by Johnathan Tan on facebook.
Sentosa Serapong, May 12
Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on flickr.
Kusu Island, May 16
Photo shared by Dayna Cheah on facebook.
grateful thanks to Leslie H. Harris of the Natural
History Museum of Los Angeles County for comments about these
worms. and identification of Chloeia flava.
- Jones, R.E.
(Ed.) et al. 2000. Polychaetes and Allies: The Southern Synthesis
Australian Biological Resources Study, Canberra. 465pp.
- Humann, Paul
and Ned Deloach. 2010. Reef
Creature Identification: Tropical Pacific New World Publications.
P., 1990. A Colour Guide to Dangerous Animals. Venom &
Toxin Research Group, Faculty of Medicine, National University
of Singapore. 156 pp.