The Feather Duster Worm (Sabellastarte spectabilis) is a tropical marine worm, or bristleworm – a polychaete. It is also called the Fan Worm. Some are sedentary (sessile) and some are mobile (errant). It is an annelid. It looks like a plant, but it is an animal.
The sedentary Feather Duster Worm lives in an elongated tube. The tube looks like a rolled-up parchment. It has segments that have appendages, called setae, or bristles, or tentacles, that look like a feather duster. The appendages are brown with white bands.
It can grow to about 20 centimetres (8 inches) tall.
The Feather Duster Worm is native to tropical waters of the Indo-Pacific but has spread to other parts of the world. The Indo-Pacific is the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. It prefers holes and crevices among coral reefs and rocky lagoons.
It collects aquatic food, such as phytoplankton, in its cilia (tiny hairs like feathers) on its appendages. It is a filter feeder. The food is channeled along grooves into its mouth.
The Feather Duster Worm reproduces asexually. It can also regenerate body parts if they are damaged. Some are male or female, and some are both male and female (hermaphroditic). Females lay (spurt out) eggs into the water and the male fertilizes them, and they embed into the sand or coral. Females can shed up to 50,000 eggs.
Photographer: Martina Nicolls
Martina Nicolls: SIMILAR BUT DIFFERENT IN THE ANIMAL KINGDOM