A bristleworm (Scolelepis (Scolelepis) squamata)

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



Scolelepis squamata is a slender, medium, length worm 5-8 cm long and 2-3 mm wide. There are up to 200 segments. Dorsal gills and chaetae arise from the second segment and run almost to the tail end. The worm is a bluish green colour with distinct red vessels in the gills and palps (paired projections from the head). The head is elongated and conical in front and pointed behind.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Widely distributed around the coast of the British Isles.

Global distribution

Recorded in the North Eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean.


Scolelepis squamata is found in the mid to lower shore of exposed beaches. It is found mainly in sand or sometimes muddy sand in vertical burrows lined with mucus.

Depth range

10-500 m

Identifying features

  • Slender, bluish-green segmented worm 5-8 cm in length.
  • Body composed of 150-200 segments with chaetae and dorsal gills.
  • Red vessels distinct in gills and palps.
  • Head elongated, pointed anteriorly and posteriorly.

Additional information

It swims in spirals when disturbed.

Listed by

- none -


  1. Hayward, P., Nelson-Smith, T. & Shields, C. 1996. Collins pocket guide. Sea shore of Britain and northern Europe. London: HarperCollins.

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

  3. 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.]

  4. 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.


  1. NBN (National Biodiversity Network) Atlas. Available from: https://www.nbnatlas.org.

  2. OBIS (Ocean Biodiversity Information System),  2024. Global map of species distribution using gridded data. Available from: Ocean Biogeographic Information System. www.iobis.org. Accessed: 2024-05-21


This review can be cited as:

Neish, A.H. 2005. Scolelepis (Scolelepis) squamata A bristleworm. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 21-05-2024]. Available from: https://www.marlin.ac.uk/species/detail/1889

Last Updated: 26/10/2005