Ah, Christmas. The time of cozy family get-togethers, presents, embarrassing sweaters, somewhat excessive amounts of food, terrible music, and of course indoor trees. We all look forward to this time of the year, but in some places it is Christmas all year round, thanks to the christmas tree worm. The colourful feeding appendages of this little tube worm indeed resemble christmas trees remarkably well, providing a nice holiday-themed decoration to the usually already festively coloured coral reefs.
As most marine worms, the christmas tree worm starts its life as a little larva, carried around on the oceanic currents with its fellow planktonic lifeforms. After floating around for a while, it finds a nice piece of coral to settle in. It drills a hole in its host and secretes calcium carbonate around its body to construct a nice, comfortable tube for protection, in which it will remain for the rest of its life. In order to feed, it sticks out its two large feeding appendages (which also function as gills), whose spiral shape and feathery branches give it the appearance of a christmas tree. Tiny animals are caught in the feathers and transported all the way down the spiral into the mouth.
It has to be the most colourful banquet in the world. So, happy Christmas everybody, and see you next year! 🙂