Biodiversity & Conservation

Serpula vermicularis reefs on very sheltered circalittoral muddy sand



Image David Connor - A colony of tube worms forming a small reef, Loch Creran. Image width ca 40 cm.
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Distribution map

SS.CMS._.Ser 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 In Britain living Serpula vermicularis reefs are known from Loch Creran in Scotland. The only other known sites in Britain and Ireland for these reefs are at locations in County Galway. Reefs were reported from Loch Sween in Scotland in the 1980s, but these are now no longer living (Hughes et al., 2008). A large aggregation from the Hamoaze, Tamar Estuary, Plymouth was reported in the Plymouth Marine Fauna (MBA, 1957).
National importance Rare

Text page icon Description of biotope

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

Large clumps ('mini reefs') of the calcareous tubes of Serpula vermicularis, typically attached to stones on muddy sediment in very sheltered conditions in sea lochs. A rich associated biota attached to the calcareous tube may include the sponge Esperiopsis fucorum, thin encrusting sponges, the ascidians Ascidiella aspersa, Pyura microcosmus and Diplosoma listerianum and fine hydroids such as Halopteris catharina. In shallow water dense Phycodrys rubens may grow on the reefs. Reefs from Loch Creran have been recently studied (Moore, 1996; Poloczanska et al., 2004). The only other known site in UK for these reefs was Loch Sween, but living reefs are no longer found there (Hughes et al., 2008). Otherwise only known from Salt Lake, Clifden and Killary Harbour, Co. Galway, Ireland. (Information adapted from the Marine Biotope Classification for Britain and Ireland, Version 97.06: Connor et al., 1997a, b).

Additional information icon Additional information

This review can be cited as follows:

Hill, J.M. & Wilding C.M. 2008. Serpula vermicularis reefs on very sheltered circalittoral muddy sand. 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: <>