Biodiversity & Conservation

Dense Lanice conchilega in tide-swept lower shore sand



Image Anon. - Dense Lanice conchilega in muddy sand. Image width ca XX cm.
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Distribution map

LS.LGS.S.Lan recorded (dark blue bullet) and expected (light blue bullet) distribution in Britain and Ireland (see below)

  • EC_Habitats

Species indicative of sensitivity

To assess the sensitivity of the biotope, the sensitivity of component species is reviewed. Those species that are considered to be particularly indicative of the sensitivity of the biotope, and for which research has been undertaken in detail are shown below (see selection criteria). The biology of other component species of the biotope is also taken into account wherever information is known to the researcher.

Species found especially in this biotope

  • Lanice conchilega
  • Nephtys cirrosa
Community Importance Species name Common Name
Key structural Lanice conchilega Sand mason worm
Important characterizing Nephtys cirrosa A catworm
Important characterizing Nephtys hombergii A catworm
Important characterizing Cerastoderma edule Common cockle


Lanice conchilega is the dominant polychaete within the biotope. It qualifies as an 'ecosystem engineer' in that it changes and/or creates a habitat, which affects other organisms (Jones et al., 1994; 1997). The tubes of Lanice conchilega, protruding 2-3 cm above the sediment surface, strongly affect the hydrodynamic regime in the benthic boundary layer and thus the distribution of co-occurring biota (see ecological interactions and habitat complexity) (e.g. Eckman et al., 1981; Eckman, 1985; Carey, 1983, 1987; Zühlke et al., 1998; Zühlke, 2001). Loss or reduction of the Lanice conchilega population would probably result in loss of the biotope as described and the species has been assessed to be a key structuring species. The biotope is also characterized by a number of polychaetes, therefore, Nephtys species are included as important characterizing species but reference has also been made to other polychaetes where possible. Cerastoderma edule is a bivalve common to this biotope and the exploitation of which may affect its viability and that of other species.

Additional information

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This review can be cited as follows:

Budd, G.C. 2006. Dense Lanice conchilega in tide-swept lower shore sand. Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Sub-programme [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 01/12/2015]. Available from: <>