The Calcareous Tube Worm of the Pacific Northwest
Calcareous tube worms have bright colors varying from orange to red, some have with white bands. The most spectacular feature of these marine worms is their feathery crown. The feather tentacles reorganize into a funnel-shaped plug when the crown is pulled in. The animal lives in the white calcified tubes. These tubes can be up to 10 cm long and about 2 mm in diameter. Coils of white tubes are often seen fastened to rocks and substrates.
Look for them in tide pools and in the low inter-tidal zone to 100 m deep. These worms tend to stay away from the kelp, kelp contain carbon monoxide, which is highly toxic to these worms.
The organism can be found in various places from Alaska to Northern California including all of the BC coast. They are also seen in Britain, Scotland, and the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans. They can be found on floats, pilings, rocks and other hard surfaces, this worm would appear to be a smaller version of the Northern Feather Duster Worm but it is not. The calcareous tube worm is much smaller, the coiled protective tube is made of calcium carbonate and a red trap door is used to seal the tube. The tentacles colors range from red to orange and are used to feed on plankton.
These worms are filter feeders that feed on tiny microscopic organisms and small particles. When feeding, the animal extends the feather dusters tentacles from its tube. Links of cilia on these tentacles force food particles towards the mouth. These little tube worms are quite fascinating to watch as they move back and forth in the current, gleaming tidbits of food with their feather like fans.