BIOTIC Species Information for Owenia fusiformis
Researched byLizzie Tyler Data supplied byUniversity of Sheffield
Refereed byThis information is not refereed.
Scientific nameOwenia fusiformis Common nameTubeworm
MCS CodeP1098 Recent SynonymsNone

PhylumAnnelida Subphylum
Superclass ClassPolychaeta
Subclass OrderOweniida
Suborder FamilyOweniidae
GenusOwenia Speciesfusiformis

Additional InformationNo text entered
Taxonomy References Howson & Picton, 1997, Hayward & Ryland, 1995b, Hayward et al., 1996, Fauchald, 1977,
General Biology
Growth formVermiform segmented
Feeding methodPassive suspension feeder
Active suspension feeder
Surface deposit feeder
Sub-surface deposit feeder
Environmental positionInfaunal
Typical food typesPhytoplankton and particulate organic matter. HabitTubiculous
BioturbatorNot researched FlexibilityHigh (>45 degrees)
FragilityFragile SizeSmall-medium(3-10cm)
HeightInsufficient information Growth RateInsufficient information
Adult dispersal potential100-1000m DependencyIndependent
General Biology Additional InformationOwenia fusiformis can be up to 10 cm in length (Hayward & Ryland, 1990) and its tubes up to 30 cm in length (Rouse & Pleijel, 2001). Owenia fusiformis can suspension feed by ciliary filter feeding or in low water flow can deposit feed by bending their flexible tube over so that the feeding crown touches the sediment surface (Rouse & Pleijel, 2001). The maximum recorded density was 4660 individuals per m² but this fluctuated over each year with mortality and massive larval settlement (Menard et al., 1990).
Biology References Rouse & Pleijel, 2001, Hayward & Ryland, 1990, Menard et al., 1990, Gentil et al., 1990, Hayward & Ryland, 1990, Heidi Tillin, unpub data,
Distribution and Habitat
Distribution in Britain & IrelandWidespread around British and Irish coasts.
Global distributionWidely distributed in coastal regions throughout northwest Europe, the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean and the Pacific.
Biogeographic rangeNot researched Depth range
MigratoryNon-migratory / Resident   
Distribution Additional InformationThe cosmopolitan nature of Owenia fusiformis has been questioned by Koh & Bhaud (2001) who suggest a review of the Oweniidae because its taxonomy is now very old and more than one species may be included in Owenia fusiformis records.

Substratum preferencesFine clean sand
Muddy sand
Sandy mud
Physiographic preferencesOpen coast
Offshore seabed
Biological zoneMid Eulittoral
Lower Eulittoral
Sublittoral Fringe
Bathybenthic (Bathyal)
Wave exposureInsufficient information
Tidal stream strength/Water flowWeak (<1 kn)
SalinityVariable (18-40 psu)
Full (30-40 psu)
Habitat Preferences Additional InformationNone entered
Distribution References Hayward & Ryland, 1995b, Hayward et al., 1996, JNCC, 1999, Picton & Costello, 1998, Bruce et al., 1963, Koh & Bhaud, 2001, Hayward & Ryland, 1990,
Reproduction/Life History
Reproductive typeGonochoristic
Developmental mechanismPlanktotrophic
Reproductive SeasonMay to June Reproductive LocationWater column
Reproductive frequencyAnnual episodic Regeneration potential No
Life span3-5 years Age at reproductive maturity1-2 years
Generation time1-2 years Fecundity70000
Egg/propagule size100 µm diameter Fertilization typeExternal
Larval/Juvenile dispersal potential>10km Larval settlement periodInsufficient information
Duration of larval stage11-30 days   
Reproduction Preferences Additional InformationThis polychaete has a life span of up to four years in British waters (Rouse & Pleijel, 2001) and has a polymodal population structure of three to five year classes (Menard et al., 1990). The mortality rate increases gradually with age but suddenly increases in the fourth year of life (Menard et al., 1990). Growth is rapid in summer, slows in the autumn and is negligible in winter, resuming in April each year. Owenia fusiformis is an annual breeder, gonochoric, with external fertilization (Rouse & Pleijel, 2001). Up to 70,000 oocytes mature from September to April (Gentil et al., 1990) and are spawned during May and June (Rouse & Pleijel, 2001). Oocytes are up to 100 µm in diameter (Rouse & Pleijel, 2001). The sex ratio is female biased and is around 0.86:1. Maturity is size-dependent and all worms 6 cm long or more are mature but some individuals reach maturity at 2.4 cm. Some individuals may breed in their first year if they can grow fast enough (Gentil et al., 1990). In late May, larval densities can be up to 100,000 per m3 (Thiebaut et al., 1992) and settled densities vary from 4,000 to 15,000 juveniles per m² (Menard et al., 1990).
Reproduction References Rouse & Pleijel, 2001, Menard et al., 1990, Gentil et al., 1990, Thiebaut et al., 1992, Barnay et al., 2003, Eckert, 2003, Heidi Tillin, unpub data,
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