Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biodiversity Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.Map Help
|Researched by||Jacqueline Hill||Refereed by||This information is not refereed|
|Other common names||-||Synonyms||-|
A sedentary, burrowing polychaete worm up to 3 cm long and 0.7-1 mm wide. The body has up to 180 segments but is not divided into distinct regions. Polydora ciliata has two very long, slender ciliated palps which protrude, waving vigorously and usually roll up spirally when the animal is disturbed. The tip of the posterior region is saucer-shaped. Polydora ciliata is yellowish-brown in colour.
There has been some confusion in the identification of Polydora ciliata because the characteristics used for separation of the species, such as the number of modified chaetae on the fifth segment, are not stable even in individuals from the same locality. It has been suggested that some other species of Polydora such as P. ligni, P. websteri, P. cirrosa and P. nuchalis may only be varieties of Polydora ciliata (Mustaquim, 1986).
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|Phylum||Annelida||Segmented worms e.g. ragworms, tubeworms, fanworms and spoon worms|
|Class||Polychaeta||Bristleworms, e.g. ragworms, scaleworms, paddleworms, fanworms, tubeworms and spoon worms|
|Typical abundance||High density|
|Male size range|
|Male size at maturity|
|Female size range||Small(1-2cm)|
|Female size at maturity|
|Growth form||Vermiform segmented|
|Body flexibility||High (greater than 45 degrees)|
|Characteristic feeding method||Active suspension feeder, Surface deposit feeder|
|Typically feeds on||Detritus|
See additional information
|Is the species harmful?||No information|
|Physiographic preferences||Open coast, Offshore seabed, Strait / sound, Estuary, Isolated saline water (Lagoon), Enclosed coast / Embayment|
|Biological zone preferences||Lower circalittoral, Lower eulittoral, Lower infralittoral, Mid eulittoral, Sublittoral fringe, Upper circalittoral, Upper infralittoral|
|Substratum / habitat preferences||Macroalgae, Artificial (man-made), Bedrock, Mud, Other species|
|Tidal strength preferences||Moderately Strong 1 to 3 knots (0.5-1.5 m/sec.), Strong 3 to 6 knots (1.5-3 m/sec.), Weak < 1 knot (<0.5 m/sec.)|
|Wave exposure preferences||Exposed, Extremely sheltered, Moderately exposed, Sheltered, Very sheltered|
|Salinity preferences||Full (30-40 psu), Low (<18 psu), Variable (18-40 psu)|
|Other preferences||No text entered|
|Migration Pattern||Non-migratory / resident|
|Reproductive type||Gonochoristic (dioecious)|
|Reproductive frequency||Annual protracted|
|Fecundity (number of eggs)||1,000-10,000|
|Generation time||<1 year|
|Age at maturity||2-3 months|
|Season||February - June|
|Life span||<1 year|
|Duration of larval stage||See additional information|
|Larval dispersal potential||Greater than 10 km|
|Larval settlement period||Insufficient information|
The MarLIN sensitivity assessment approach used below has been superseded by the MarESA (Marine Evidence-based Sensitivity Assessment) approach (see menu). The MarLIN approach was used for assessments from 1999-2010. The MarESA approach reflects the recent conservation imperatives and terminology and is used for sensitivity assessments from 2014 onwards.
|Removal of the substratum, perhaps by dredging, would result in the loss of Polydora ciliata tubes and hence the loss of the animals so intolerance is assessed as high. However, if some individuals remain rapid recolonization is possible because the species is capable of tube building throughout its life. Polydora ciliata of all ages that were removed from their tubes on many occasions, all built new tubes (Daro & Polk, 1973). Recovery is likely to be high because the larvae of Polydora ciliata are planktonic and capable of dispersal over long distances and the reproductive period is of several months duration. In colonization experiments in Helgoland (Harms & Anger, 1983) Polydora ciliata settled on panels within one month in the spring.|
|Tolerant||Not relevant||Not sensitive||Moderate|
|Polydora ciliata is likely to tolerate smothering by 5 cm of sediment because the species inhabits a range of habitats including muddy sediment and larvae settle preferentially on substrates covered with mud (Lagadeuc, 1991). The species also plays an important part in the process of temporary sedimentation of muds in some estuaries, harbours or coastal areas (Daro & Polk, 1973). A Polydora mud can be up to 50cm thick, but the animals themselves occupy only the first few centimetres. They either elongate their tubes, or have left them to rebuild close to the surface.|
|Tolerant||Not relevant||Not sensitive||High|
|Polydora ciliata is tolerant to siltation because it normally inhabits waters with high levels of suspended sediment which it actively fixes in the process of tube making when in muddy habitats. Occasionally, in certain places siltation is speeded up when Polydora ciliata is present.|
|Polydora ciliata colonizes a wide range of littoral and sub-littoral habitats from rocks on the midshore to the subtidal and are therefore tolerant to a level of desiccation. For example, at Cullercoats in north east England, animals were present at the mid-shore level, where the worms are subjected to about equal time of exposure and submergence (Gudmundsson, 1985). Although soft bodies are likely to be intolerant of desiccation Polydora ciliata can retreat into its burrow to ameliorate the effects. Therefore, only those individuals at the upper limit of the population range are likely to be killed by an increase in desiccation and so intolerance has been assessed as intermediate.|
|Polydora ciliata colonizes a wide range of littoral and sub-littoral habitats from rocks on the midshore to the subtidal and are therefore tolerant to a level of emergence. For example, at Cullercoats in north east England, animals were present at the mid-shore level, where they are subjected to about equal time of exposure and submergence (Gudmundsson, 1985). An increase in emergence may cause the death of some individuals at the upper limit of the species range because of increased desiccation. Sub-tidal populations are unlikely to experience emergence.|
|Polydora ciliata was present and colonized test panels in Helgoland in three areas, two exposed to strong tidal currents and one site sheltered from currents (Harms & Anger, 1983). In very strong tidal currents little sediment deposition will take place resulting in coarse sediments retaining little organic matter and therefore, not suitable for the deposit feeding Polydora ciliata. However, where suspended sediment levels are high, deposition of fine sediment may occur even in strong flows providing suitable conditions for the species. Animals living in burrows in rock are not likely to be washed away but strong water flow rate may interfere with feeding and tube building by removing sediments. Recovery is good because animals can re-build tubes and because the larvae of Polydora ciliata are planktonic and capable of dispersal over long distances and the reproductive period is of several months duration. In colonization experiments in Helgoland (Harms & Anger, 1983) Polydora ciliata settled on panels within one month in the spring.|
|Murina (1997) categorised Polydora ciliata as a eurythermal species because of its ability to spawn in temperatures ranging from 10.6-19.9°C. This is consistent with a wide global distribution. In the western Baltic Sea Gulliksen (1977) recorded high abundances of Polydora ciliata in temperatures of 7.5 to 11.5°C. Rapid changes in hydrographical conditions occurred when temperatures dropped from 11.5°C to 7.5°C in the course of 15 hours (Gulliksen, 1977) and so it appears the species is tolerant of short term changes in temperature. During the extremely cold winter of 1962/63 when temperatures dropped below freezing point for several weeks, Polydora ciliata was apparently unaffected (Crisp (ed.), 1964). Recovery of the species is good because the larvae of Polydora ciliata are planktonic and capable of dispersal over long distances and the reproductive period is of several months duration.|
|Tolerant||Not relevant||Not sensitive||Moderate|
|The species is probably tolerant of changes in turbidity because it is able to colonize a range of habitats including muddy sediments and soft rock substratum that vary in turbidity.|
|In the intertidal, Polydora ciliata generally inhabits a burrow within rocks and so is unlikely to be damaged or removed by exposure to wave action and so intolerance is assessed as low. Changes in wave exposure may influence the supply of particulate matter for suspension feeding.|
|Tolerant||Not relevant||Not sensitive||Moderate|
|Polydora ciliata may respond to vibrations from predators or bait diggers by retracting their palps into their tubes. However, the species is unlikely to be sensitive to noise.|
|Polydora ciliata exhibits shadow responses withdrawing its palps into its burrow, believed to be a defence against predation. However, since the withdrawal of the palps interrupts feeding and possibly respiration the species also shows habituation of the response (Kinne, 1970). The species is, therefore, likely to have very low intolerance to visual disturbance by boats, humans or other factors not normally present in the marine environment.|
|As a soft bodied species, Polydora ciliata is likely to be crushed and killed by an abrasive force or physical blow. However, some individuals are likely to survive as individuals can withdraw into burrows and so intolerance has been assessed as intermediate. Recovery is good because Polydora ciliata has planktonic larvae that are capable of dispersal over long distances and the reproductive period is of several months duration. In colonization experiments in Helgoland (Harms & Anger, 1983) Polydora ciliata settled on panels within one month in the spring.|
|Polydora ciliata is capable of tube building throughout its life and so is able to re-establish attachment on displacement. In experimental removal of Polydora ciliata individuals of all ages which were removed from their tubes on many occasions, all built new tubes (Daro & Polk, 1973). Recovery is likely to be high because Polydora ciliata has planktonic larvae that are capable of dispersal over long distances and the reproductive period is of several months duration. In colonization experiments in Helgoland (Harms & Anger, 1983) Polydora ciliata settled on panels within one month in the spring.|
|Polydora ciliata was abundant at polluted sites close to acidified, halogenated effluent discharge from a bromide-extraction plant in Amlwch, Anglesey (Hoare & Hiscock, 1974). Spionid polychaetes were found by McLusky (1982) to be relatively tolerant of distilling and petrochemical industrial waste in Scotland.|
|Experimental studies with various species suggests that polychaete worms are quite tolerant to heavy metals (Bryan, 1984). Polydora ciliata occurs in an area of the southern North Sea polluted by heavy metals but was absent from sediments with very high heavy metal levels (Diaz-Castaneda et al., 1989).|
|In analysis of kelp holdfast fauna following the Sea Empress oil spill in Milford Haven the fauna present, including Polydora ciliata, showed a strong negative correlation between numbers of species and distance from the spill (SEEEC, 1998). After the extensive oil spill in West Falmouth, Massachusetts, Grassle & Grassle (1974) followed the settlement of polychaetes in this environmental disturbed area. Species with the most opportunistic life histories, including Polydora ligni, were able to settle in the area. This species has some brood protection which enables larvae to settle almost immediately in the nearby area (Reish, 1979).|
|No information||No information||No information||Not relevant|
|Polydora ciliata is often found in environments subject to high levels of nutrients (Sordino et al, 1989). For example, the species was abundant in areas of the Firth of Forth exposed to high levels of sewage pollution (Smyth, 1968). However, Polydora ciliata is also common in organically poor areas (Pearson & Rosenberg, 1978) and so is likely to have low intolerance to changes in nutrient concentrations. In colonization experiments in an organically polluted fjord receiving effluent discharge from Oslo, Polydora ciliata had settled in large numbers within the first month (Green, 1983, Pardal et al., 1993).|
|Polydora ciliata is a euryhaline species inhabiting fully marine and estuarine habitats. In an area of the western Baltic Sea, where bottom salinity was between 11.1 and 15.0psu Polydora ciliata was the second most abundant species with over 1000 individuals per m² (Gulliksen, 1977).|
|Polydora ciliata is assessed as having low intolerance to changes in oxygenation because the species is repeatedly found at localities with oxygen deficiency (Pearson & Rosenberg, 1978). For example, in polluted harbours in Los Angeles and Long Beach harbours Polydora ciliata was present in the oxygen range 0.0-3.9 mg/l and the species was abundant in hypoxic fjord habitats (Rosenberg, 1977). Recovery is good because the species is able to rapidly recolonize suitable habitats.|
|No information||Not relevant||No information||Not relevant|
|No information on diseases of Polydora ciliata was found.|
|No information||No information||No information||Not relevant|
|No known non-native species compete with Polydora ciliata.|
|Extraction of the species is unlikely although dredging may remove populations in some habitats. Recovery is good because Polydora ciliata is iteroparous and larvae can disperse over long distances. Recolonization is rapid, usually taking place within several months of the reproductive period in the summer.|
|Not relevant||Not relevant||Not relevant||Not relevant|
|Although Polydora ciliata is often associated with oysters and mussels it is not dependent on another species.|
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|National (GB) importance||-||Global red list (IUCN) category||-|
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.
Crisp, D.J. (ed.), 1964. The effects of the severe winter of 1962-63 on marine life in Britain. Journal of Animal Ecology, 33, 165-210.
Daro, M.H. & Polk, P., 1973. The autecology of Polydora ciliata along the Belgian coast. Netherlands Journal of Sea Research, 6, 130-140.
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.
Fish, J.D. & Fish, S., 1996. A student's guide to the seashore. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Grassle, J.F. & Grassle, J.P., 1974. Opportunistic life histories and genetic systems in marine benthic polychaetes. Journal of Marine Research, 32, 253-284.
Green, N.W., 1983. Key colonisation strategies in a pollution-perturbed environment. In Fluctuations and Succession in Marine Ecosystems: Proceedings of the 17th European Symposium on Marine Biology, Brest, France, 27 September - 1st October 1982. Oceanologica Acta, 93-97.
Gudmundsson, H., 1985. Life history patterns of polychaete species of the family spionidae. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 65, 93-111.
Gulliksen, B., 1977. Studies from the “UWL Helgoland” on the macrobenthic fauna of rocks and boulders in Lübeck Bay (western Baltic Sea). Helgolander Wissenschaftliche Meeresuntersuchungen, 30(1-4), 519-526.
Harms, J. & Anger, K., 1983. Seasonal, annual, and spatial variation in the development of hard bottom communities. Helgoländer Meeresuntersuchungen, 36, 137-150.
Hayward, P.J. & Ryland, J.S. (ed.) 1995b. Handbook of the marine fauna of North-West Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Hoare, R. & Hiscock, K., 1974. An ecological survey of the rocky coast adjacent to the effluent of a bromine extraction plant. Estuarine and Coastal Marine Science, 2 (4), 329-348.
Kinne, O. (ed.), 1970. Marine Ecology: A Comprehensive Treatise on Life in Oceans and Coastal Waters. Vol. 1 Environmental Factors Part 1. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons
Lagadeuc, Y., 1991. Mud substrate produced by Polydora ciliata (Johnston, 1828) (Polychaeta, Annelida) - origin and influence on fixation of larvae. Cahiers de Biologie Marine, 32, 439-450.
McLusky, D.S., 1982. The impact of petrochemical effluent on the fauna of an intertidal estuarine mudflat. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 14, 489-499.
Murina, V., 1997. Pelagic larvae of Black Sea Polychaeta. Bulletin of Marine Science, 60, 427-432.
Mustaquim, J., 1986. Morphological variation in Polydora ciliata complex (Polychaeta, Annelida). Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 86, 75-88.
Pardal, M.A., Marques, J.-C. & Bellan, G., 1993. Spatial distribution and seasonal variation of subtidal polychaete populations in the Mondego estuary (western Portugal). Cahiers de Biologie Marine, 34, 497-512.
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.
Reish, D.J., 1979. Bristle Worms (Annelida: Polychaeta) In Pollution Ecology of Estuarine Invertebrates, (eds. Hart, C.W. & Fuller, S.L.H.), 78-118. Academic Press Inc, New York.
Rosenberg, R., 1977. Benthic macrofaunal dynamics, production, and dispersion in an oxygen-deficient estuary of west Sweden. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 26, 107-33.
SEEEC (Sea Empress Environmental Evaluation Committee), 1998. The environmental impact of the Sea Empress oil spill. Final Report of the Sea Empress Environmental Evaluation Committee, 135 pp., London: HMSO.
Smyth, J.C., 1968. The fauna of a polluted site in the Firth of Forth. Helgolander Wissenschaftliche Meeresuntersuchungen, 17, 216-233.
Sordino, P., Gambi, M.C. & Carrada, G.C., 1989. Spatio-temporal distribution of polychaetes in an Italian coastal lagoon (Lago Fusaro, Naples). Cahiers de Biologie Marine, 30, 375-391.
Bristol Regional Environmental Records Centre, 2017. BRERC species records recorded over 15 years ago. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/h1ln5p accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-09-25.
Centre for Environmental Data and Recording, 2018. IBIS Project Data. Occurrence dataset: https://www.nmni.com/CEDaR/CEDaR-Centre-for-Environmental-Data-and-Recording.aspx accessed via NBNAtlas.org on 2018-09-25.
National Trust, 2017. National Trust Species Records. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/opc6g1 accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.
NBN (National Biodiversity Network) Atlas. Available from: https://www.nbnatlas.org.
OBIS (Ocean Biodiversity Information System), 2023. Global map of species distribution using gridded data. Available from: Ocean Biogeographic Information System. www.iobis.org. Accessed: 2023-06-05
South East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre, 2018. SEWBReC Worms (South East Wales). Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/5vh0w8 accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-02.
South East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre, 2018. Dr Mary Gillham Archive Project. Occurance dataset: http://www.sewbrec.org.uk/ accessed via NBNAtlas.org on 2018-10-02
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Last Updated: 24/04/2007