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Giant Feather Duster Eudistylia polymorpha


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Giant Feather Duster
credit: National Undersearch Research Program (NURP)

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Category: Segmented Worms view all from this category

Description Eudistylia polymorpha, the giant feather duster worm, is a species of marine polychaete worm belonging to the family Sabellidae. It receives its common name from the crown of tentacles that are extended when the animal is underwater.

E. polymorpha has a body up to 25 cm (10 in) long and 1.2 cm (0.5 in) thick and lives within a tube. This is parchment-like and composed of sediment cemented with mucus. It is a brownish colour, translucent and often strengthened with sand and shell fragments. On rocky shores it may be hidden in a crevice and be difficult to dislodge. The branchiae (feeding appendages) in the feathery crown also function as gills. They are also known as radioles and are a shade of red or brown, banded with paler sections. Shades vary but the most frequent colouration is maroon with orange tips. They arise from two spiral, deeply cleft, bases. They bear eyespots which alert the worm to sudden shadows or movements nearby. This enables the crown to be retracted into the tube very rapidly when danger threatens. The posterior segments of the worm bear hooked bristles which help anchor it in its tube. E. polymorpha can be distinguished from the very similar Eudistylia vancoveri by the cleft in the crown. Also E vancoveri generally has red branchiae with white tips.

Habitat Rocks, Piers, driftwood & pilings, Ocean or bay shallows.

Range Alaska, California, Western Canada, Northwest.