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

A bristleworm (Pygospio elegans)

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



A many segmented, tube-living worm up to 15 mm long. It is greenish or yellowish with a visible brown gut. The tube is long and flexible and covered with fine particles of sand or shell particles. There are two slender, mobile appendages from the head region.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Found all around the British coast but possibly under-recorded in Ireland.

Global distribution

Widely distributed round north east Atlantic coasts, in the Mediterranean and the north Pacific.


Found on sandy shores and mud flats, and in mud that has collected in rock crevices, from mid shore to sublittoral.

Depth range


Identifying features

  • A slender, segmented, tube-living worm up to 15 mm long.
  • The tube is long and flexible, covered with sand or shell fragments.
  • 2 thin, mobile palps on the head region.

Additional information


Listed by

- none -

Further information sources

Search on:


  1. Bruce, J.R., Colman, J.S. & Jones, N.S., 1963. Marine fauna of the Isle of Man. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press.

  2. Fauchald, K., 1977. The polychaete worms. Definitions and keys to the orders, families and genera. USA: Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

  3. Fish, J.D. & Fish, S., 1996. A student's guide to the seashore. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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

  5. 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.]

  6. JNCC (Joint Nature Conservation Committee), 1999. Marine Environment Resource Mapping And Information Database (MERMAID): Marine Nature Conservation Review Survey Database. [on-line]

  7. Picton, B.E. & Costello, M.J., 1998. BioMar biotope viewer: a guide to marine habitats, fauna and flora of Britain and Ireland. [CD-ROM] Environmental Sciences Unit, Trinity College, Dublin.


This review can be cited as:

Avant, P. 2005. Pygospio elegans 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. [cited 25-09-2018]. Available from:

Last Updated: 26/10/2005