Biodiversity & Conservation

Sabellaria spinulosa on stable circalittoral mixed sediment


Image Ken Collins - Close up of Sabellaria spinulosa mound showing worm tubes composed of cemented sand grains and shell fragments. Image width ca XX cm.
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Distribution map

recorded (dark blue bullet) and expected (light blue bullet) distribution in Britain and Ireland (see below)

  • EC_Habitats
  • UK_BAP

For a list of 2004 characterising species please see the JNCC website.

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.

Community Importance Species name Common Name
Key Structuring Sabellaria spinulosa Ross worm
Important other Dendrodoa grossularia Baked bean ascidian
Important other Balanus crenatus An acorn barnacle
Important other Alcyonium digitatum Dead man's fimngers
Important other Pomatoceros triqueter A tubeworm


Apart from being the species that ultimately characterizes SS.SBR.PoR.SspiMx, Sabellaria spinulosa is a key structural species. Dense aggregations of the species provide structure for the biotope that results in the high biodiversity associated with it (see Habitat Complexity). However, although such aggregations of Sabellaria spinulosa are associated with high species diversity, none of the associated species are thought to be highly faithful, nor do they contribute to the functioning or characterisation of the biotope. Nevertheless, the diverse epibiota typically associated with Sabellaria spinulosa crusts are what contribute to its UK Biodiversity Action Plan designation (Anon, 1999r). Accordingly, Dendrodoa grossularia, Alcyonium digitatum, Balanus crenatus and Pomatoceros triqueter. Where species groups are thought to be of particular intolerance, or tolerance, to a factor, information has been included on them in the relevant sections throughout the review.

Additional information

The MNCR recorded 283 species in 10 records of CMS.SspiMx although not all the species occurred in all records of the biotope (JNCC, 1999).

This review can be cited as follows:

Marshall, C.E. 2006. Sabellaria spinulosa on stable circalittoral mixed sediment. Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Sub-programme [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 29/11/2015]. Available from: <>