Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Annelida
Class: Polychaeta
Order: Sabellida
Family: Sabellidae

Genus/species: Eudistylia vancouveri

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: E. vancouveri secretes a soft, leathery, parchment like tube. The peristomium has several featherlike banded green and purple or maroon light sensitive radioles (tentacles) that are closely associated with the mouth and used for feeding, forming a feather-duster like structure. The radioles are also used for gas exchange (like gills) but the circulatory pattern within them is unusual. Instead of having afferent and efferent vessels, the radioles have a single branchial vessel in each radiole which the blood flows in and out of. Sabellids possess giant nerve fibers running down their body which allows them to retract rapidly into their tube if disturbed.

The pencil like vertical tubes are up to about 45 cm (18 in) long and the tentacle plumes up to 2 inches in diameter.

An excellent group of diagrams of fan worm anatomy can be found on page 27 of the Marine Biology Coloring Book by T. Niesen (2000).


Northern Feather Duster Worm30312750995_19fd3dac96_o

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Found from Alaska to central California in low intertidal areas to 20 m (60 ft) deep. Often in large clusters attached to crevices of boulders, bedrock, pilings; and on vertical rock faces and surge channels in heavy surf.

DIET IN THE WILD: Plankton-feeders such as this often live where there are strong currents and wave action, moving food past the animal at a high rate.

REPRODUCTION: The sexes are separate in these worms, but gametes are produced on internal surfaces rather than in gonads. During spawning, the sperm and eggs are carried up the same groove that carries the fecal pellets and shed into the water. Fertilization is thus a random process, and the larvae that develop are planktonic spheroids with flagella and cilia, at first looking nothing like worms. They add segments little by little and finally drop out of the plankton as real worms, to begin their feather-duster life.

REMARKS: Fan Worms are marine segmented worms that are sessile, attached to rocks or sand by their base. They are a member of the phylum Annelida, which also includes earthworms. Fan Worms are usually of the families Terebellidae (Medusa Worms), Sabellidae (Feather Dusters), or Serpulidae (Christmas Worms). While their close cousins the mobile (Errantia) bristleworms have a body with equal segments (metameres), the sessile bristleworms (Sedentaria) will have body segments of different sizes.
California Academy of Sciences California Costal Marine Reef exhibit 2016


California Academy of Sciences J. Charles Delbeek, M.Sc.
Assistant Curator, Steinhart Aquarium


University of Puget Sound……

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