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information on the biology of species and the ecology of habitats found around the coasts and seas of the British Isles

A bristleworm (Spio filicornis)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.

Summary

Description

Spio filicornis is a small bristleworm up to 3 cm long. Its body is divided into between 80 and 90 segments. Spio filicornis has a short, stout, pointed prostomium with short palps. It is pink in colour, with a brown gut and cream flecks laterally.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Spio filicornis is found on most British coasts.

Global distribution

Spio filicornis is found in the Arctic, Baltic, north-east Atlantic, Mediterranean and north Pacific.

Habitat

Spio filicornis is found in clean sand, from the low water mark into the shallow sublittoral. It inhabits a tube made of sediment grains and detritus stuck together with mucus.

Depth range

Intertidal to shallow sublittoral

Identifying features

  • Up to 3 cm long, 0.2 cm across.
  • 80-90 chaetae bearing segments.
  • Short, stout pointed prostomium.
  • Short palps.
  • Pink in colour.

Additional information

-none-

Listed by

- none -

Further information sources

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Biology review

Taxonomy

PhylumAnnelida
ClassPolychaeta
OrderSpionida
FamilySpionidae
GenusSpio
Authority(Müller, 1776)
Recent Synonyms

Biology

Typical abundance
Male size range2-3cm
Male size at maturity
Female size rangeSmall-medium(3-10cm)
Female size at maturity
Growth formVermiform segmented
Growth rate
Body flexibilityHigh (greater than 45 degrees)
Mobility
Characteristic feeding methodSurface deposit feeder
Diet/food source
Typically feeds onDetritus
Sociability
Environmental positionInfaunal
DependencyIndependent.
SupportsNo information found
Is the species harmful?

Biology information

-none-

Habitat preferences

Physiographic preferencesOpen coast, Strait / sound, Enclosed coast / Embayment
Biological zone preferencesLower eulittoral, Lower infralittoral, Sublittoral fringe, Upper infralittoral
Substratum / habitat preferencesCoarse clean sand, Fine clean sand, Mud, Muddy sand
Tidal strength preferencesVery Weak (negligible), Weak < 1 knot (<0.5 m/sec.)
Wave exposure preferencesExtremely sheltered, Sheltered, Ultra sheltered, Very sheltered
Salinity preferencesFull (30-40 psu), Variable (18-40 psu)
Depth rangeIntertidal to shallow sublittoral
Other preferencesNo text entered
Migration PatternNon-migratory / resident

Habitat Information

-

Life history

Adult characteristics

Reproductive typeGonochoristic (dioecious)
Reproductive frequency Annual protracted
Fecundity (number of eggs)100-1,000
Generation time<1 year
Age at maturity2-3 months
SeasonJanuary - September
Life span<1 year

Larval characteristics

Larval/propagule type-
Larval/juvenile development Planktotrophic
Duration of larval stage2-10 days
Larval dispersal potential Greater than 10 km
Larval settlement periodInsufficient information

Life history information

Reproduction
Srikrishnadhas & Ramamoorthi (1981) investigated the life history of Spio filicornis in the laboratory. Their findings are summarised below:
  • The spindle shaped egg mass was laid inside the worm's tube, stuck to the side of the tube with mucus produced by the female.
  • Within 12 hours, the eggs metamorphosed into trochophores (larvae) which were retained inside the egg mass.
  • After 36 hours three segments were faintly marked.
  • After thee days the larvae broke free of the egg mass and became pelagic.
  • Once the juvenile worm had 18-22 chaetigers (segments) it settled, metamorphosed, and burrowed into the sand where it built a tube of sand and detritus bound together with mucus.
  • Worms were sexually mature 2 months after metamorphosis.

Sensitivity reviewHow is sensitivity assessed?

Physical pressures

 IntoleranceRecoverabilitySensitivityEvidence/Confidence
High High Moderate Low
Spio filicornis lives in the sediment and a loss of substratum would cause a loss of population. Therefore, an intolerance of high has been recorded. Recoverability has been recorded as high (see additional information below).
Low Very high Very Low Low
Spio filicornis lives in the sediment and uses sediment grains to make its tube. It is likely that Spio filicornis will be able to move up through any extra sediment, therefore intolerance, has been recorded as low. Recoverability will probably be very high (see additional information below). However, smothering by impermeable material is likely to result in anoxic conditions and have a greater impact.
Tolerant* Not relevant Not sensitive* Low
Spio filicornis lives in the sediment and is unlikely to be perturbed by an increase in suspended sediment. There may be an increase in the amount of food avaliable therefore, tolerant* has been recorded.
Low Immediate Not sensitive Low
Spio filicornis is a surface deposit feeder and relies on a supply of nutrients at the sediment surface. A decrease in suspended sediment is likely to lead to a reduction in the amount of available food. A reduction in food availability may impair growth and reproduction but is unlikely to cause mortality. Intolerance has, therefore, been recorded as low. The benchmark states the decrease in siltation would only happen for a month, once the level of suspended sediment increases normal feeding could resume, recoverability has therefore been recorded as immediate.
Intermediate Very high Low Low
Spio filicornis lives infaunally so is protected from desiccation stress. Some individuals live in the intertidal so may be tolerant to some emersion of the substratum. Individuals living in coarser sands are more likely to be affected due to increased porosity of the sand and increased exposure to desiccation. Intolerance has, therefore, been recorded as intermediate. Recoverability has been recorded as very high (see additional information below).
Intermediate Very high Low Low
Spio filicornis is found in the intertidal so may be tolerant to some emersion of the substratum. Spio filicornis lives infaunally so may be able to retract into its tube to reduce desiccation stress. Individuals in coarser sands are more likely to be affected. Intolerance has, therefore been recorded as intermediate. A recoverability of very high has been recorded (see additional information below).
Tolerant* Not relevant Not sensitive* Low
Spio filicornis thrives in the sublittoral zone and therefore could potentially benefit from a decrease in emergence. It is possible that decreased emergence would allow the species to colonize further up the shore. Hence tolerant* has been recorded.
Intermediate Very high Low Low
A change in water flow rate will change sediment characteristics. Increased water flow will increase deposits of coarser sediments. Changes in water flow are likely to change the distribution and extent of the population due to changes in the preferred substratum of Spio filicornis. Therefore, intolerance has been recorded as intermediate. A recoverability of very high has been recorded (see additional information below).
Intermediate Very high Low Low
A change in water flow rate will change sediment characteristics. A decrease in water flow rate will lead to deposits of finer sediments. The distribution and extent of the population is likely to alter due to changes in the preferred substratum of Spio filicornis. Therefore, an intolerance of intermediate has been recorded. A recoverability of ver high has been recorded (see additional information below).
Low Very high Very Low Low
No information was found regarding the intolerance of Spio filicornis to temperature. However, inferences can be made from its geographical distribution. Spio filicornis is found in the Mediterranean (Hayward & Ryland, 1995) and therfore surviving higher seawater temperatures than in Britain and Ireland. Chronic temperature change is likely to have little, or no effect. An acute change in temperature may cause physiological stress but is unlikely to lead to mortality. Intolerance has, therefore, been recorded as low. A recoverability of very high has been recorded (see additional information below).
Low Very high Very Low Low
No information was found regarding the intolerance of Spio filicornis to temperature. However, inferences can be made from its geographical distribution. Spio filicornis is found in the Arctic and Baltic (Hayward & Ryland, 1995) and therefore surviving colder temperatures than occur in Britain and Ireland. these water. Chronic temperature change is likely to have little, or no effect. An acute change in temperature may result in physiological stress but is unlikely to lead to mortality. Intolerance has, therefore, been recorded as low. A recoverability of very high has been recorded (see additional information below).
Tolerant Not relevant Not sensitive Low
Spio filicornis is found in estuarine regions which experience high levels of turbidity. An increase in turbidity will lead to reduced light penetration of the water column. Spio filicornis is not affected by light availability, therefore, tolerant has been recorded.
Tolerant Not relevant Not sensitive Low
Spio filicornis is not affected by light availability, therefore, tolerant has been recorded.
Intermediate High Low Moderate
Tamaki (1987) reported that adult Spio filicornis could burrow 5-10 cm into the sediment and so are unlikely to be affected by an increase in wave exposure. Juvenile Spio filicornis could only burrow into the top 2 cm of the sediment and so may be affected by wave action. A change from sheltered to moderately exposed is likely to remove all but coarse sand, reducing the amount of preferred substratum for Spio filicornis. Intolerance has therefore been recorded as high. A recoverability of very high has been recorded (see additional information below).
Tolerant Not relevant Not sensitive Low
Spio filicornis occurs from sheltered to ultra sheltered habitats and a decrease in wave exposure is unlikely to have adverse effects. Therefore, tolerant has been recorded.
Tolerant Not relevant Not sensitive High
No information was found concerning intolerance of Spio filicornis to noise. However, it is unlikely to be affected by noise and vibrations at the level of the benchmark.
Tolerant Not relevant Not sensitive High
Spio filicornis inhabits a tube and its visual range is probably very limited. Not sensitive has, therefore, been recorded.
Intermediate Very high Low Low
Spio filicornis is a soft bodied organism that exposes its palps at the surface while feeding. It lives infaunally in sandy sediment and any physical disturbance that penetrates the sediment, for example dredging or dragging an anchor, would lead to physical damage of Spio filicornis. However, adult worms can burrow up to 10 cm down and may escape the disturbance. Juveniles can only burrow up to 2 cm into the sediment and are likely to be affected. However, individuals are likely to pass through a passing scallop dredge due to their small size. Bergman & Hup (1992) reported that the total density of spionids actually increased with increased fishing disturbance., presumably due to their ability to colonize newly exposed substratum. Hall et al. (1990) investigated the impact of hydraulic dredging for razor clams. They reported that any effects only persist for a short time, with the community restored after approximately 40 days in stormy conditions. The population density of Spio filicornis was slightly reduced in the dredged site relative to the control site but its abundance had increased over that of the control site ater 40 days. However, the control site showed a similar level of variation in abundance. An intolerance of intermediate has therefore been recorded. Recoverability has been recorded as very high (see additional information below).
Low Very high Very Low Low
If Spio filicornis is displaced from the substratum it is likely that it could burrow back into the sediment and rebuild it tube. It would, however, be more susceptible to predation whilst exposed and there would be significant energy expenditure rebuilding the tube. Therefore, intolerance has been recorded as low. A recoverability of very high has been recorded (see additional information below).

Chemical pressures

 IntoleranceRecoverabilitySensitivityEvidence/Confidence
High High Moderate Low
No information was found directly relating to the effects of synthetic chemicals on Spio filicornis. However, there is evidence from other polychaete species. Collier & Pinn (1998) investigated the effect on the benthos of Ivermectin, treatment for infestations of sea-lice on farmed salmonids. The ragworm Hediste diversicolor exhibited 100% mortality after 14 days when exposed to 8mg/m2 of invermectin in a microcosm. The blow lug, Arenicola marina, was also intolerant of invermectin through ingestion of contaminated sediment (Thain et al., 1998; cited in Collier & Pinn 1998) and it was suggested that deposit feeding was an important route for exposure to toxins. Beaumont et al. (1989) investigated the effects of tri-butyl tin (TBT) on benthic organisms. At concentrations of 1-3µg/l there was no significant effect on the abundance of Hediste diversicolor or Cirratulus cirratus after 9 weeks in a microcosm. However, no juvenile polychaetes were retrieved from the substratum so TBT may have had an effect on the larval and/or juvenile stages of these polychaetes. The high mortality rate of polychaetes due to exposure to invermectin suggests a high intolerance to synthetic chemicals. An intolerance of high has been inferred, but with a very low confidence level. Recoverability has been recorded as high (see additional information below).
Heavy metal contamination
Low Very high Very Low Moderate
Diaz-Castaneda et al. (1989) looked at colonization of defaunated and polluted sediments in Dunkerque harbour. The sediment was polluted with both heavy metals and oil. Capitella capitata was generally the first polychaete to colonize the polluted sediment. Spio filicornis took between 7 weeks and 3 months to appear in the sediment suggesting that it is tolerant of heavy metal pollution. Intolerance has therefore been recorded as low. A recoverability of very high has been recorded (see additional information below).
Hydrocarbon contamination
Low Very high Very Low Moderate
Diaz-Castaneda et al. (1989) looked at colonization of defaunated and polluted sediments in Dunkerque harbour. The sediment was polluted with both heavy metals and oil. Capitella capitata was generally the first polychaete to colonize the polluted sediment. Spio filicornis took between 7 weeks and 3 months to appear in the sediment suggesting it is tolerant of oil pollution. Intolerance has therefore been recorded as low. A recoverability of very high has been recorded (see additional information below).
Radionuclide contamination
No information Not relevant No information Not relevant
No evidence was found regarding the intolerance of Spio filicornis to radionuclide contamination.
Changes in nutrient levels
Low Very high Very Low Moderate
Spio filicornis is often found in environments subject to high levels of nutrients, for example, it was found in areas of the Firth of Forth exposed to high levels of sewage pollution (Read et al.1983). Spio filicornis is also found in nutrient poor areas (Diaz-Castaneda, et al., 1989). Therefore, an intolerance of low has been recorded. A recoverability of very high has been recorded (see additional information below).
Not relevant Not relevant Not relevant Not relevant
Spio filicornis lives in fully saline conditions, an increase in salinity would be to hypersaline conditions. No information was found concerning the reaction of Spio filicornis to hypersaline conditions (>40 psu). It is unlikely that Spio filicornis would experience hypersaline conditions, therefore, not relevant has been recorded.
Low Very high Very Low Moderate
Spio filicornis is a euryhaline species (Gosner, 1971), inhabiting fully saline and estuarine habitats. However, populations in estuaries would be intolerant of further reductions in salinity. Intolerance has, therefore, been recorded low at the benchmark level.
Intermediate Very high Low Low
No information was found on the tolerance of Spio filicornis to changes in oxygenation. Cole et al. (1999) suggest adverse effects on marine species at oxygen concentrations below 4 mg/l and probable adverse effects occur below 2 mg/l. Capitella capitata survived for 13 days at 0.8-0.9 ml/l and more than 24 days at oxygen levels of 1.5 ml/l. In hypoxic conditions it stopped burrowing and feeding so mortality is likely indirectly through starvation (Pearson & Rosenberg, 1978). Intolerance has, therefore, been recorded as intermediate. A recoverability of very high has been recorded (see additional information below).

Biological pressures

 IntoleranceRecoverabilitySensitivityEvidence/Confidence
No information Not relevant No information Not relevant
No information was found on diseases of Spio filicornis.
No information Not relevant No information Not relevant
No information was found on non-native species that may compete with Spio filicornis.
Not relevant Not relevant Not relevant Not relevant
No information was found that Spio filicornis is extracted deliberately therefore not relevant has been recorded.
Low Very high Very Low Moderate
Hall et al. (1990) investigated the impact of hydraulic dredging for razor clams on an infaunal community. They found that any effects only persist for a short time, with the community restored after approximately 40 days. Bergman & Hup (1992) reported that the total density of spionids actually increased with increased fishing disturbance. Intolerance has therefore been recorded as low. A recoverability of very high has been recorded (see additional information below).

Additional information

Recoverability
Spio filicornis is a highly opportunistic polychaete with a short life span (Diaz-Castaneda et al., 1989). It reproduces throughout the year and reportedly thrives in regularly disturbed environments (Kröncke, 1990; Niermann et al., 1990). It reaches maturity quickly, and has good local recruitment since eggs and larve are retained witin the egg mass. Therefore, recoverability has been recorded as very high. There is no pelagic larval stage, suggesting that where the population is removed, recovery may take longer. However, adults and juveniles may recruit to an area due to bedload transport and recoverability is likely to be high.

Importance review

Policy/legislation

- no data -

Status

Non-native

Importance information

Structure
Tube building worms, including Spio filicornis, modify the sediment making it suitable for later colonization and succession (Gallagher et al., 1983).

Bibliography

  1. Beaumont, A.R., Newman, P.B., Mills, D.K., Waldock, M.J., Miller, D. & Waite, M.E., 1989. Sandy-substrate microcosm studies on tributyl tin (TBT) toxicity to marine organisms. Scientia Marina, 53, 737-743.

  2. Bergman, M.J.N. & Hup, M., 1992. Direct effects of beam trawling on macro-fauna in a sandy sediment in the southern North Sea. ICES Journal of Marine Science, 49, 5-11.

  3. Collier, L.M. & Pinn, E.H., 1998. An assessment of the acute impact of the sea lice treatment Ivermectin on a benthic community. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 230, 131-147.

  4. Diaz-Castaneda, V., Richard, A. & Frontier, S., 1989. Preliminary results on colonization, recovery and succession in a polluted areas of the southern North Sea (Dunkerque's Harbour, France). Scientia Marina, 53, 705-716.

  5. Fauchald, J. & Jumars, P.A., 1979. The diet of worms: a study of polychaete feeding guilds. Oceanography and Marine Biology: an Annual Review, 17, 193-284.

  6. Fauchald, K., 1977. The polychaete worms. Definitions and keys to the orders, families and genera. USA: Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

  7. Gallagher, E.D., Jumars, P.A. & Trueblood, D.D., 1983. Facilitation of soft-bottom benthic succession by tube builders. Ecology, 64, 1200-1216.

  8. Gosner, K.L., 1971. Guide to identification of marine and estuarine invertebrates. Cape Hatteras to the Bay of Fundy. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

  9. Hall, S.J., Basford, D.J. & Robertson, M.R., 1990. The impact of hydraulic dredging for razor clams Ensis spp. on an infaunal community. Netherlands Journal of Sea Research, 27, 119-125.

  10. Hayward, P.J. & Ryland, J.S. (ed.) 1995b. Handbook of the marine fauna of North-West Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  11. Howson, C.M. & Picton, B.E., 1997. The species directory of the marine fauna and flora of the British Isles and surrounding seas. Belfast: Ulster Museum. [Ulster Museum publication, no. 276.]

  12. JNCC (Joint Nature Conservation Committee), 1999. Marine Environment Resource Mapping And Information Database (MERMAID): Marine Nature Conservation Review Survey Database. [on-line] http://www.jncc.gov.uk/mermaid

  13. Kröncke, I., 1990. Macrofauna standing stock of the Dogger Bank. A comparison: II. 1951 - 1952 versus 1985 - 1987. Are changes in the community of the northeastern part of the Dogger Bank due to environmental changes? Netherlands Journal of Sea Research, 25, 189-198.

  14. Niermann, U., Bauerfeind, E., Hickel, W. & Westernhagen, H.V., 1990. The recovery of benthos following the impact of low oxygen content in the German Bight. Netherlands Journal of Sea Research, 25, 215-226.

  15. Pearson, T.H. & Rosenberg, R., 1978. Macrobenthic succession in relation to organic enrichment and pollution of the marine environment. Oceanography and Marine Biology: an Annual Review, 16, 229-311.

  16. Picton, B.E. & Costello, M.J., 1998. BioMar biotope viewer: a guide to marine habitats, fauna and flora of Britain and Ireland. [CD-ROM] Environmental Sciences Unit, Trinity College, Dublin., http://www.itsligo.ie/biomar/

  17. Read, P.A., Anderson, K.J., Matthews, J.E., Watson, P.G., Halliday, M.C. & Shiells, G.M., 1983. Effects of pollution on the benthos of the Firth of Forth. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 14, 12-16.

  18. Sriknshnadhas, B. & Ramoorthi, K., 1981. Studies on the life-history of Spio filicornis (Müller 1776). Mahasagar-Bulletin of the National Institute of Oceanography, 14, 303-307.

  19. Tamaki, A., 1987. Comparison of resistivity to transport by wave action in several polychaete species on an intertidal sand flat. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 37, 181-189.

Citation

This review can be cited as:

Ager, O.E.D. 2007. Spio filicornis A bristleworm. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. (eds) Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. Available from: http://www.marlin.ac.uk/species/detail/1698

Last Updated: 02/05/2007