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.
Image copyright information

  • #
  • #
Distribution map

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

  • EC_Habitats
  • UK_BAP

Text page icon Habitat description

Map icon Distribution of biotope in Britain and Ireland Records of CMX.SspiMx are restricted to the east coast (south of Whitby) and south coast (no further west than Weymouth) of England. The biotope has also been recorded from several locations on the Welsh coast.
National importance Not available

Text page icon Description of biotope

For a full description of this biotope including characterizing species, distribution, survey information and references visit JNCC

The tube-building polychaete Sabellaria spinulosa at high abundances on mixed sediment. These species typically forms loose agglomerations of tubes forming a low lying matrix of sand, gravel, mud and tubes on the seabed. The infauna comprises typical sublittoral polychaete species such as Protodorvillea kefersteini, Pholoe synophthalmica, Harmothoe spp, Scoloplos armiger, Mediomastus fragilis, Lanice conchilega and cirratulids, together with the bivalve Abra alba, and tube building amphipods such as Ampelisca spp. The epifauna comprise a variety of bryozoans including Flustra foliacea, Alcyonidium diaphanum and Cellepora pumicosa, in addition to calcareous tubeworms, pycnogonids, hermit crabs and amphipods. The reefs formed by Sabellaria consolidate the sediment and allow the settlement of other species not found in adjacent habitats leading to a diverse community of epifaunal and infauna species. The development of such reefs is assisted by the settlement behaviour of larval Sabellaria which are known to selectively settle in areas of suitable sediment and particularly on existing Sabellaria tubes (Tait and Dipper, 1998; Wilson, 1929). These reefs are particularly affected by dredging or trawling and in heavily dredged or disturbed areas an impoverished community may be left (e.g. SS.SCS.CCS.Pkef) particularly if the activity or disturbance is prolonged. However, it is likely that reefs of Sabellaria spinulosa can recover quite quickly from short term or intermediate levels of disturbance as found by Vorberg (2000) in the case of disturbance from shrimp fisheries and recovery will be accelerated if some of the reef is left intact following disturbance as this will assist larval settlement of the species. (Information taken from the revised Marine Habitat Classification, Version 04.05: Connor et al., 2004.)

Additional information icon Additional information

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 28/11/2015]. Available from: <>