MarLIN

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

Bootlace worm (Lineus longissimus)

NBN Interactive23-06-2005

Map accurate at time of writing. Visit NBN or OBIS to view current distribution

Researched byJudith Oakley Refereed byAdmin
Authority(Gunnerus, 1770)
Other common names- Synonyms-

Summary

Description

Lineus longissimus is an unsegmented, elongated ribbon worm. Young specimens range from dark olive brown to chocolate brown whereas adults are blackish brown to black. Epidermal cilia give the body a purplish irridescence. This species is the longest nemertean known. It is usually 5-15 m in length but can be over 30 m, usually 5 mm in width. The body is often streaked with pale longitudinal lines, especially on the anterior dorsal surface. The rectangular head has deep slits and ends in a pale colour tip. A row of up to 20 deep set reddish-brown or black eyes may be present either side of the snout. Pink or red cerebral ganglia may be seen through the epidermis.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Most likely present all around Britain and Ireland, except perhaps eastern Scotland and England.

Global distribution

Ranging from Iceland eastwards to the Atlantic, North Sea and Baltic Coasts of Europe.

Habitat

Lineus longissimus is found on the lower shore coiled in writhing knots beneath boulders and on muddy sand. This species can often be found in rockpools entangled amongst Laminaria holdfasts or in rock fissures. In deeper sub-littoral areas, it occurs on muddy, sandy, stony or shelly substrata.

Depth range

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Identifying features

  • Ventral surface may be same colour or paler than dorsal.
  • Body may be streaked with pale longitudinal lines especially on anterior dorsal surface.
  • Rectangular head with pale colour tip.
  • 10-20 deep set reddish brown or black eyes in a row either side of snout, which may be obscured by dark body colour.
  • Body unsegmented and ciliated, giving purplish irridescence.

Additional information

Lineus longissimus is the most commonly recorded nemertean in Britain. When handled, the animal produces large amounts of thick mucus with a faint pungent smell.

Listed by

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Further information sources

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Bibliography

  1. Bruce, J.R., Colman, J.S. & Jones, N.S., 1963. Marine fauna of the Isle of Man. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press.
  2. Crothers, J.H. (ed.), 1966. Dale Fort Marine Fauna. London: Field Studies Council.
  3. Gibson, R., 1982. British Nemerteans. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  4. Hayward, P., Nelson-Smith, T. & Shields, C. 1996. Collins pocket guide. Sea shore of Britain and northern Europe. London: HarperCollins.
  5. Hayward, P.J. & Ryland, J.S. 1994. The marine fauna of the British Isles and north-west Europe. Volume 1. Introduction and Protozoans to Arthropods. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  6. Howson, C.M. & Picton, B.E. (ed.), 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.]
  7. 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,
  8. NBN (National Biodiversity Network), 2002. National Biodiversity Network gateway. http://www.searchnbn.net, 2008-10-31

Citation

This review can be cited as:

Oakley, J.A. 2005. Lineus longissimus Bootlace worm. 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/2075

Last Updated: 23/06/2005