Like rubber hoses sticking out of the ground, the sturdy tubes of
this worm are commonly seen on all our shores including sandy shores
near seagrass areas and soft silty areas near mangroves. The tubes
are usually spaced apart from one another.
What are solitary tubeworms? Solitary
tubeworms are segmented bristleworms belonging to the Family Onuphidae,
Class Polychaeta, Phylum Annelida. The
polychaetes include bristleworms, and Phylum Annelida includes the
more familiar earthworm. Most members of the Family Onuphidae build
tubes. Some of them carry the tubes around, others are stationary
but can leave their tubes. Not all tubeworms are polychaetes and not
all polychaetes are tubeworms. More about tubeworms
Features: The solitary tubeworm
makes a tube 1cm in diameter. The tube can be quite long, but usually
only about 10cm of this is sticking out of the surface. The tube is
tough, thick and leathery. Only the portion of the tube that sticks
out of the ground is usually reinforced with bits and pieces (sand,
shells, bits of wood). The tube is usually curved, with the opening
facing down towards the surface. The lower portion of the tube that
buried in the ground is thin and papery. This is more obvious if you
look at a tube that has been washed ashore.
One or two large leaves or large shells are usually added near the
tube opening. Some suggestions for the ornamentation of these tubes
are that it helps the worm differentiate between harmful predators
According to Leslie Harris, Diopatra is the only genus in the Family
Onuphidae with feathery appendages (branchiae with spiraled filaments
around a central stem).
Michell Ng shares that the one she saw on Changi on a sandy stretch
was spinning in the water, making figure 8 shapes. After taking the
photos, when she released it, it proceeded to burrow into the sand.
What do they eat? Some sources
suggest Onuphid worms are scavengers that will eat dead animals or
plants. Others suggest Diopatra are predators that ambush prey
from their tubes that seize passing prey with teeth and immobilise
them with large tentacle-like appendages on their heads.
Singapore tubeworm: One species
of Solitary tubeworm, Diopatra bulohensis, is named after our
very own Sungei Buloh!
Thick leathery tube
Chek Jawa, Jan 06
Tube washed ashore
Changi, Aug 05
out to grab a mangrove propagule.
Pasir Ris Park, Apr 10
closer look at the worm.
difficult to positively identify without close examination.
On this website, they are grouped by external features for convenience of
tubeworms on Singapore shores
by Michell Ng. |
Being eaten by a mudskipper
Chek Jawa, Jun 11
Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on his blog.
With grateful thanks to Leslie H. Harris of the Natural
History Museum of Los Angeles County for comments on this worm
and identification of the worm out of the tube!
- Tong, T.L.
& Chou, L.M. Diopatra
a new species of Onuphidae (Polychaeta) from Sungei Buloh,
Singapore. Pp. 357-362 on the The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology,
1928 - 2004 (launches PDF)
- Edward E.
Ruppert, Richard S. Fox, Robert D. Barnes. 2004.Invertebrate
Brooks/Cole of Thomson Learning Inc., 7th Edition. pp. 963
Jan A., 2005. Biology
of the Invertebrates.
5th edition. McGraw-Hill Book Co., Singapore. 578 pp.
- Jones, R.E.
(Ed.) et al. 2000. Polychaetes and Allies: The Southern Synthesis
Australian Biological Resources Study, Canberra. 465pp.