BIOTIC Species Information for Cirratulus cirratus
Researched byLizzie Tyler Data supplied byUniversity of Sheffield
Refereed byThis information is not refereed.
Scientific nameCirratulus cirratus Common nameA bristleworm
MCS CodeP836 Recent SynonymsNone

PhylumAnnelida Subphylum
Superclass ClassPolychaeta
Subclass OrderSpionida
Suborder FamilyCirratulidae
GenusCirratulus Speciescirratus

Additional InformationCirratulus cirratus is usually found in aggregations of up to 200 individuals. During the breeding season their colour changes, the females become bright yellow and the males white.
Taxonomy References Hayward & Ryland, 1995b, Fauchald, 1977, Hayward et al., 1996, Fish & Fish, 1996, Howson & Picton, 1997,
General Biology
Growth formCylindrical
Vermiform segmented
Feeding methodSurface deposit feeder
Sub-surface deposit feeder
Environmental positionInfaunal
Typical food typesDiatoms and algal detritus. HabitBurrow dwelling
BioturbatorDiffusive mixing FlexibilityHigh (>45 degrees)
FragilityFragile SizeMedium(11-20 cm)
HeightNot relevant Growth Rate<2cm / reproductive episode (every 1-2 yrs)
Adult dispersal potentialNone DependencyIndependent
General Biology Additional InformationLittle information on the general biology or life history characteristics of this species was found. Cirratulus cirratus is regarded as a generally tolerant species and can be found in moderate densities in areas of high environmental disturbance (e.g. 120 per m² 500 m away from an oil platform) (Levell et al., 1989). Once larvae and juveniles settle, they remain in their burrow and adults do not move. It can grow up to 2 cm between reproductive episodes, which occur every 1-2 years (Olive, 1970).
Biology References Garwood, 1982, Levell, et al., 1989, Olive, 1970, Penry & Jumars, 1990, Gibbs, 1971, Hayward & Ryland, 1995b,
Distribution and Habitat
Distribution in Britain & IrelandFound in suitable habitats all round the coast of Britain and Ireland.
Global distributionMost north west European coasts and also in the south Atlantic.
Biogeographic rangeNot researched Depth range
MigratoryNon-migratory / Resident   
Distribution Additional InformationIn Northumberland it is the dominant crevice organism on rocky shores between low and high water neaps (Olive, 1970). Cirratulus cirratus has been described as an opportunistic deposit feeder that is characteristic of areas of organic enrichment (Penry & Jumars, 1990). Cirratulus cirratus is mostly intertidal but is sometimes found subtidally (up to 50 m depth off the Devon coast) (Garwood, 1982; Olive, 1970).

Substratum preferencesUnder boulders
Muddy gravel
Physiographic preferencesOpen coast
Offshore seabed
Strait / sound
Biological zoneUpper Eulittoral
Mid Eulittoral
Lower Eulittoral
Sublittoral Fringe
Lower Infralittoral
Upper Circalittoral
Lower Circalittoral
Wave exposureSheltered
Very Sheltered
Extremely Sheltered
Tidal stream strength/Water flowWeak (<1 kn)
SalinityReduced (18-30 psu)
Variable (18-40 psu)
Full (30-40 psu)
Habitat Preferences Additional InformationNone entered
Distribution References JNCC, 1999, NBN, 2002, Hayward & Ryland, 1995b, Fauchald, 1977, Hayward et al., 1996, Fish & Fish, 1996, Hayward & Ryland, 1995b,
Reproduction/Life History
Reproductive typeGonochoristic
Developmental mechanismLecithotrophic
Reproductive SeasonAsynchronous reproduction Reproductive LocationSediment surface
Reproductive frequencyBiannual episodic Regeneration potential No
Life span6-10 years Age at reproductive maturity1-2 years
Generation time1-2 years Fecundity
Egg/propagule size150 µm diameter Fertilization typeInsufficient information
Larval/Juvenile dispersal potentialInsufficient information Larval settlement periodInsufficient information
Duration of larval stage   
Reproduction Preferences Additional InformationReproduction in Cirratulus cirratus is asynchronous i.e. it is not entrained to any of the seasons and members of the population are at different stages of reproductive development at any one time (Garwood, 1982; Gibbs, 1971). Oocytes are 150 µm in diameter and once fertilized are deposited in a jelly mass on the surface of rocks (Petersen, 1999). The eggs hatch as a ciliated post-trochophore after 6 days. The larvae are entirely benthic for the duration of their development, living off yolk for around 24 days after hatching and then commence adult style deposit feeding (Olive, 1970). Females can spawn 2-3 times in their lifetime and it takes 1-2 years after each spawning to mature a new clutch of oocytes (Olive, 1970). There are separate sexes, the males are white, females are lemon-yellow due to the colour of coelomic oocytes (Gibbs, 1971). Sex ratios vary and have been recorded as 1:1 (Olive, 1970) 1:1.7 and 1:2.8 (Gibbs, 1971).
Asexual reproduction by epitoky (clones growing from the posterior end of the worm) may occur in Cirratulus cirratus. However, the taxonomic status of Cirratulus is in constant review and epitokes may be formed by another species that has been erroneously identified as Cirratulus cirratus (Petersen, 1999).
Reproduction References Garwood, 1982, Olive, 1970, Gibbs, 1971, Petersen, 1999, George, 1968, George, 1971,
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