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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 (Spiophanes bombyx)

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

Summary

Description

Spiophanes bombyx is a small, slender bristleworm (5-6 cm long by 0.15 cm wide). Its body is divided into approximately 180 chaetae bearing segments (chaetigers). Chaetigers 5-15 have tufts of long, silky threads laterally along them. Spiophanes bombyx has two long frontal horns on the prostomium and a stout rearward pointing horn. Its palps are short. Spiophanes bombyx has no gills or anal funnel. It is bright pink in colour turning greenish brown at the rear end. Spiophanes bombyx inhabits a stiff sandy tube which usually protrudes slightly above the surface.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Spiophanes bombyx is found off most British coasts.

Global distribution

Spiophanes bombyx is found in the Mediterranean, the north Pacific and the north-east and North American coasts of the Atlantic.

Habitat

Spiophanes bombyx is found in clean sand from the low water mark to over 60 m. It may occupy depths down to over 1 km and may penetrate into estuaries.

Depth range

0-60m

Identifying features

  • Flattened body, 5-6 cm long, 0.15 cm wide.
  • Up to 180 chaetae bearing segments.
  • Tufts of long, silky threads laterally on chaetigers 5-15.
  • Short palps.
  • Prostomium with 2 long frontal horns.
  • Gills absent
  • Two longitudinal ciliated sensory grooves.
  • Bright pink to red, greenish brown at rear.

Additional information

-none-

Listed by

- none -

Further information sources

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Biology review

Taxonomy

PhylumAnnelida
ClassPolychaeta
OrderSpionida
FamilySpionidae
GenusSpiophanes
Authority(Claparède, 1870)
Recent Synonyms

Biology

Typical abundanceHigh density
Male size range1-6cm
Male size at maturity
Female size rangeSmall-medium(3-10cm)
Female size at maturity
Growth formTubicolous
Growth rateNo information found
Body flexibilityHigh (greater than 45 degrees)
Mobility
Characteristic feeding methodPassive suspension feeder, Surface deposit feeder
Diet/food source
Typically feeds onSediment particles, planktonic organisms, meiobenthic organisms (Dauer et al., 1981).
Sociability
Environmental positionInfaunal
DependencyIndependent.
SupportsNone
Is the species harmful?No information

Biology information

Feeding

During suspension feeding captured particles are accumulated in a ciliated groove before being transported to the pharynx, this is termed 'basal' food groove accumulation behaviour (Dauer et al., 1981). Spiophanes bombyx is thought to be the only spionid that displays this unique behaviour.

Habitat preferences

Physiographic preferencesOpen coast, Strait / sound, Sea loch / Sea lough, Estuary, Enclosed coast / Embayment
Biological zone preferencesLower eulittoral, Lower infralittoral, Sublittoral fringe, Upper infralittoral
Substratum / habitat preferencesFine clean sand, Sandy mud
Tidal strength preferencesModerately Strong 1 to 3 knots (0.5-1.5 m/sec.), Very 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 range0-60m
Other preferences
Migration PatternNon-migratory / resident

Habitat Information

-

Life history

Adult characteristics

Reproductive typeGonochoristic (dioecious)
Reproductive frequency Annual protracted
Fecundity (number of eggs)No information
Generation time
Age at maturityInsufficient information
SeasonApril - December
Life spanSee additional information

Larval characteristics

Larval/propagule type-
Larval/juvenile development Planktotrophic
Duration of larval stageSee additional information
Larval dispersal potential See additional information
Larval settlement periodInsufficient information

Life history information

Reproduction

Spiophanes bombyx is regarded as a typical 'r' selecting species with a short lifespan, high dispersal potential and high reproductive rate (Kröncke, 1990; Niermann et al., 1990). It is often found at the early successional stages of variable, unstable habitats that it is quick to colonize following perturbation (Pearson & Rosenberg, 1978). Its larval dispersal phase may allow the species to colonize remote habitats.

Sensitivity reviewHow is sensitivity assessed?

Physical pressures

 IntoleranceRecoverabilitySensitivityEvidence/Confidence
High High Moderate Low
Spiophanes bombyx 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 High Low Low
Spiophanes bombyx lives in the sediment and uses sediment grains to make its tube. It is likely that Spiophanes bombyx will be able to move up through any extra sediment, therefore, intolerance has been recorded as low. However, smothering by impermeable material is likely to result in anoxic conditions and have a greater impact.
Tolerant Not relevant Not sensitive Low
Spiophanes bombyx lives in the sediment and is unlikely to be perturbed by an increase in suspended sediment. Therefore, tolerant has been recorded.
Low Immediate Not sensitive Low
Spiophanes bombyx 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 and recoverability has therefore been recorded as immediate.
Intermediate High Low Low
Spiophanes bombyx is an infaunal species and is therefore, likely to be protected from desiccation by water retained in the sediment. Spiophanes bombyx is found in the intertidal suggesting some level of tolerance to emersion of the substratum. If an individual was removed from the substratum and was unable to reburrow it is likely to result in mortality. Intertidal populations are likely to be adversely affected by an increase in desiccation equivalent to a movement from low to mid shore. Therefore, intolerance has been recorded as intermediate. A recoverability of high has been recorded (see additional information below).
Intermediate High Low Low
An increase in emergence will lead to an increase in desiccation stress. Spiophanes bombyx is found in the intertidal so may be tolerant to some emersion of the substratum. Spiophanes bombyx will probably retract into its tube to reduce the effects of desiccation. Intolerance has, therefore, been recorded as intermediate. A recoverability of high has been recorded (see additional information below).
Tolerant* Not relevant Not sensitive* Low
Spiophanes bombyx is found subtidally and a decrease in emergence is unlikely to have any detrimental effects. It is possible that decreased emergence may allow the species to colonize further up the shore. Hence, not sensitve* has been recorded.
High High Moderate Low
A change in water flow rate will change sediment characteristics. An increase in water flow rate will increase deposits of coarser sediments. Spiophanes bombyx preferred substratum is fine sands, therefore a change in sediment characteristics may result in a reduced distribution and extent of the population. A recoverability of high has been recorded (see additional information below).
Tolerant* Not relevant Not sensitive* Low
A change in water flow rate will change sediment characteristics. A decrease in water flow rate will increase the deposit of finer sediments. The preferred substratum of Spiophanes bombyx is finer sands, therefore, a change in the sediment characteristics may lead to an increase in the distribution and extent of the population. Therefore, tolerant* has been recorded.
Low Very high Very Low Low
No information was found regarding the intolerance of Spiophanes bombyx to temperature. However, inferences can be made from its geographical distribution. Spiophanes bombyx is found in the Mediterranean (Hayward & Ryland, 1995), which is likely to be warmer than the waters around Britain and Ireland. Chronic temperature change is likely to have little, or no effect. An acute change in temperature at the benchmark level 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 Spiophanes bombyx to temperature. However inferences can be made from its geographical distribution. Spiophanes bombyx is found in water off Denmark (Thorson, 1946) which are likely to be colder than British and Irish waters. Chronic temperature change is likely to have little, or no effect. An acute change in temperature at the benchmark level 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 Not relevant
Spiophanes bombyx 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. Spiophanes bombyx is not affected by light availability, therefore, tolerant has been recorded.
Tolerant Not relevant Not sensitive Not relevant
Spiophanes bombyx is not affected by light availability, therefore, tolerant has been recorded.
High High Moderate Low
Spiophanes bombyx inhabits low energy depositional environments. An increase in wave exposure will lead to erosion of the substratum, which will alter the extent of suitable habitats available for Spiophanes bombyx. Intolerance has, therefore, been recorded as high. Recoverability has been recorded as high (see additional information below).
Tolerant Not relevant Not sensitive Not relevant
Spiophanes bombyx occurs from sheltered to ultra sheltered habitats. A decrease in wave exposure is unlikely to adversely affect Spiophanes bombyx and, therefore, tolerant has been recorded.
No information Not relevant No information Not relevant
No information was found concerning intolerance of Spiophanes bombyx to noise. However, it is unlikely to be affected by noise and vibrations at the level of the benchmark.
No information Not relevant No information Not relevant
Spiophanes bombyx inhabits a tube and its visual range is probably very limited. Not sensitive has, therefore, been recorded.
Intermediate Very high Low High
Spiophanes bombyx 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 Spiophanes bombyx. Bergman & Hup (1992) reported a 40-60% decrease in the total density of Spiophanes bombyx after 3 trawling events. Therefore, an intolerance of intermediate has been recorded. 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. Similarly, Jennings & Kaiser (1995) suggested that the top few centimetres of the sediment were usually occupied by opportunistic species, such as spionids, capitellid polychaetes and amphipods, which were able to recolonize disturbed areas quickly. They further suggested that this surface community would probably recover within 6 -12 months. Therefore, a recoverability of very high has been recorded (see additional information below).
Low Very high Very Low Low
If Spiophanes bombyx is displaced from the substratum it is likely that it could burrow back into the sediment. It would however, be more susceptible to predation. 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 Very low
No information was found directly relating to the effects of synthetic chemicals on Spiophanes bombyx . 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 Ivermectin in a microcosm. The blow lug, Arenicola marina, was also intolerant of Ivermectin 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 Ivermectin suggests a high intolerance to synthetic chemicals. Therefore, an intolerance of high has been recorded at a very low level of confidence. Recoverability has been recorded as high (see additional information below).
Heavy metal contamination
Intermediate High Low Low
No direct information was found regarding the intolerance of Spiophanes bombyx to heavy metals. However, Crompton (1997) suggests the following concentrations of heavy metals would result in the mortality of annelids after short term (4-14 days) exposure:
  • Hg 0.1-1mg/l.
  • Cu 0.01-0.1mg/l.
  • Cd 1-10mg/l.
  • Zn 1-10mg/l.
  • Pb 0.1-1mg/l.
  • Cr 0.1-1mg/l.
  • As 1-10mg/l.
  • Ni 10-100mg/l.
Bryan (1984) suggests polychaetes are fairly resistant to heavy metals, therefore, intolerance has been recorded as intermediate. A recoverability of high has been recorded (see additional information below).
Hydrocarbon contamination
Intermediate High Low Moderate
Generally soft sediment inhabitants, especially infaunal polychaetes, are particularly effected by oil pollution (Suchanek, 1993). Jacobs (1980) investigated the effects of the Amoco Cadiz oil spill in 1978. The numbers of spionidae polychaetes decreased after the spill. Capitellid polychaetes recovered very quickly, spionids took slightly longer but did recover quickly. Intolerance has, therefore, been recorded as intermediate. A recoverability of 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 Spiophanes bombyx to radionuclide contamination.
Changes in nutrient levels
Low High Low Moderate
Moderate nutrient levels may be beneficial to Spiophanes bombyx but increased nutrient enrichment may result in a community dominated by opportunist species (e.g. capitellids followed by spionids). This results in an increase of abundance but a decrease in species richness eventually leading to abiotic, anoxic sediments (Pearson & Rosenberg, 1978). Intolerance, has therefore been recorded as low. A recoverability of high has been recorded (see additional information below).
Not relevant Not relevant Not relevant Not relevant
No information was found concerning the reaction of Spiophanes bombyx to hypersaline conditions (>40psu). It is unlikely that Spiophanes bombyx would experience hypersaline conditions, therefore, not relevant has been recorded.
Low High Low Moderate
Spiophanes bombyx is a euryhaline species (Bailey-Brook, 1976; Maurer & Lethem, 1980), inhabiting fully saline and estuarine habitats. Intolerance has, therefore, been recorded as low, at the benchmark level.
Intermediate High Low Moderate
Nierman et al. (1990) reported changes in a fine sand community for the German Bight in an area with regular seasonal hypoxia. In 1983, oxygen levels were exceptionally low <3mg O2/l in large areas and < 1mg O2/l in some areas. Species richness decrease by 30-50% and overall biomass fell. Spiophanes bombyx was found in small numbers at some, but not all areas, during the period of hypoxia. Once oxygen levels returned to normal Spiophanes bombyx increased in abundance. The benchmark is for 2mg O2/l for 1 week. The evidence suggests that at least some Spiophanes bombyx would survive hypoxic conditions, therefore, intolerance has been recorded as intermediate. A recoverability of 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 Spiophanes bombyx.
No information Not relevant No information Not relevant
No information was found on non-native species that may compete with Spiophanes bombyx.
No information Not relevant No information Not relevant
No information was found that Spiophanes bombyx is extracted deliberately, therefore, not relevant has been recorded.
Intermediate High Low High
Bergman & Hup (1992) found that there was a 40-60% decrease in the density of Spiophanes bombyx after beam trawling. Hall et al. (1990) investigated the impact of hydraulic dredging for razor clams. They reported that any effects only persist for a short time, after 40 days there was no significant difference in the infaunal community. Intolerance has therefore been recorded as intermediate. A recoverability of high has been recorded (see additional information below).

Additional information

Recoverability
Spiophanes bombyx is regarded as a typical 'r' selecting species with a short life span, high dispersal potential and high reproductive rate (Kröencke, 1980; Niermann et al., 1990). It is often found at the early successional stages of variable, unstable habitats that it is quick to colonize following perturbation (Pearson & Rosenberg, 1978). Its larval dispersal phase may allow the species to colonize remote habitats.

Importance review

Policy/legislation

- no data -

Status

Non-native

Importance information

Structure

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

Bibliography

  1. Bailey-Brook, J.H., 1976. Habitats of tubicolous polychaetes from the Hawaiian Islands and Johnston Atoll. Pacific Science, 30, 69-81.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. Bryan, G.W., 1984. Pollution due to heavy metals and their compounds. In Marine Ecology: A Comprehensive, Integrated Treatise on Life in the Oceans and Coastal Waters, vol. 5. Ocean Management, part 3, (ed. O. Kinne), pp.1289-1431. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

  5. 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.

  6. Crompton, T.R., 1997. Toxicants in the aqueous ecosystem. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

  7. Dauer, D.M., Maybury, C.A. & Ewing, R.M., 1981. Feeding behaviour and general ecology of several spionid polychaetes from the Chesapeake Bay. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 54, 21-38.

  8. 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.

  9. Fauvel, P., 1927. Polychètea sédentaires. In Faune de France, 16, 494 pp. Paris: P. Lechevalier.

  10. Gage, J., 1972. A preliminary survey of the benthic macrofauna and sediments in Lochs Etive and Creran, sea-lochs along the west coast of Scotland. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 52, 237-276.

  11. 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.

  12. Hayward, P., Nelson-Smith, T. & Shields, C. 1996. Collins pocket guide. Sea shore of Britain and northern Europe. London: HarperCollins.

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

  14. Hayward, P.J. & Ryland, J.S. 1990. The marine fauna of the British Isles and north-west Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  15. 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.]

  16. Jacobs, R.P.W.M., 1980. Effects of the Amoco Cadiz oil spill on the seagrass community at Roscoff with special reference to the benthic infauna. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 2, 207-212.

  17. Jennings, S. & Kaiser, M.J., 1998. The effects of fishing on marine ecosystems. Advances in Marine Biology, 34, 201-352.

  18. 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

  19. 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.

  20. Maurer, D. & Lethem, W., 1980. Dominant species of polychaetous annelids of Georges Bank. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 3, 135-144.

  21. National Biodiversity Network (NBN) Atlas website. Available from: http://www.nbnatlas.org.  Accessed 01 April 2017

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

  24. Suchanek, T.H., 1993. Oil impacts on marine invertebrate populations and communities. American Zoologist, 33, 510-523.

  25. Thorson, G., 1946. Reproduction and larval development of Danish marine bottom invertebrates, with special reference to the planktonic larvae in the Sound (Øresund). Meddelelser fra Kommissionen for Danmarks Fiskeri- Og Havundersögelser, Serie: Plankton, 4, 1-523.

  26. Wolff, W.J., 1973. The estuary as a habitat. An analysis of the data in the soft-bottom macrofauna of the estuarine area of the rivers Rhine, Meuse, and Scheldt. Zoologische Verhandelingen, 126, 1-242.

Citation

This review can be cited as:

Ager, O.E.D. 2005. Spiophanes bombyx 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/1705

Last Updated: 24/11/2005