Christmas Tree Worms Facts ~ Interesting and Colorful Sealife in the Ocean

Christmas tree worms (Spirobranchus giganteus) from East Timor.
Christmas tree worms (Spirobranchus giganteus) from East Timor. | Source
Christmas Tree Worms can be found in shades of red, orange, yellow, blue, brown and white.
Christmas Tree Worms can be found in shades of red, orange, yellow, blue, brown and white. | Source
Christmas Tree Worm in Porites coral. Admiralty, Osprey Reef, Coral Sea
Christmas Tree Worm in Porites coral. Admiralty, Osprey Reef, Coral Sea | Source

What is a Christmas Tree Worm?

Although called Christmas Tree Worms, you will not ever find these worms on your Christmas tree. They don’t even have anything to do with Christmas trees.


The Christmas Tree Worm, also referred to as a Jewel Stone, is a beautifully colored tube-dwelling worm with two spiraling plumes that resemble two beautifully colored Christmas trees.


These colorful worms, living in coral reefs all around the world, can be found in shades of red, orange, yellow, blue, brown and white.


The Christmas Tree Worm was first described by scientists in 1766.


 This picture shows the Christmas tree worm, Spirobranchus giganteus, and was captured in Papua New Guinea.
This picture shows the Christmas tree worm, Spirobranchus giganteus, and was captured in Papua New Guinea. | Source
The picture of this Christmas tree worm was taken in East Timor.
The picture of this Christmas tree worm was taken in East Timor. | Source

The parts (the two spiraling plumes) of the worm that can be seen are called radioles. These plumes can reach up to 1-1/2” (3.8 cm) across, and 1” (2.5 cm) tall.


The rest of the Christmas Tree Worm is buried in a tube in the coral.


Christmas Tree Worms are very sensitive to disturbances and will rapidly retract into their tube at the slightest touch or passing shadow. They typically re-emerge a minute later, very slowly checking for safety, before once again fully expanding.


The Christmas Tree Worm has few known predators.


This photo shows clearly that Christmas tree worms are not limited to one color. This worm exhibits blue and orange as well as shades of black and white.
This photo shows clearly that Christmas tree worms are not limited to one color. This worm exhibits blue and orange as well as shades of black and white. | Source
Great profile of the Christmas Tree Worm.
Great profile of the Christmas Tree Worm. | Source

Feeding and Respiration of Christmas Tree Worms

These radioles, or plumes, serve two purposes – feeding and respiration.


Christmas tree worms are filter feeders, using their plumes to catch phytoplankton and other small particles in the water. Once caught, cilia relays the food along the plumes to the worm’s mouth.


Nothing is wasted. In the event that grains of sand are picked up, the sand is routed to storage sacs and will be used later for tube building.


These radioles also act as gills, enabling the worm to breathe.


Christmas tree worms located in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
Christmas tree worms located in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary | Source

Christmas Tree Worm Reproduction

There are both male and female Christmas Tree Worms. They reproduce by releasing eggs and sperm into the water. Fertilized eggs develop into larvae that settle on coral. After settling on specific types of coral, it will metamorphose into an adult (like a caterpillar will metamorphose into a butterfly). At which time, it builds a tube on the surface of the coral. As the coral grows the tube becomes embedded in the skeleton of the coral. The Christmas Tree Worm extends its tube as the coral grows.

The video below contains amazing footage showing the spawning of the Christmas tree worm as they release eggs and sperm.

This is another great example of a multicolored Christmas tree worm.
This is another great example of a multicolored Christmas tree worm. | Source

Researchers have used X-rays to find the age of the worm by counting annual growth rings of the corals in which they were buried. These researchers discovered that most of the worms exceeded 10 years of age, and some even exceeded 40 years of age!

Christmas tree worms are not dangerous to humans.

When I owned a reef aquarium, I had several Christmas Tree Worms in it. I always marveled at their beauty and their speed. Christmas tree worms come attached to live rock that is purchased and then used in an aquarium to build a live reef. Because of their demanding needs for a very specific diet, and strict water requirements, they should only be kept by advanced aquarists.


The short video (17 sec) below shows the quick retraction of the plumes when the Christmas Tree Worm is disturbed. . .

The trap door that the worm pulls over its hole is readily apparent in this picture.
The trap door that the worm pulls over its hole is readily apparent in this picture. | Source




Disappears . . . in the blink of an eye.

Great Close-Up
Great Close-Up | Source

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Comments: "Christmas Tree Worms ~ Interesting and Colorful Sealife in the Ocean" 43 comments

Esmeowl12 profile image

Esmeowl12 5 years ago from Sevierville, TN

What beautiful creatures! Thanks for sharing this interesting and informative hub. Voted up and useful!


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 5 years ago from Texas Author

Esmeowl12 - They really are beautiful, and fascinating! I'm glad you enjoyed the article. Thank you for stopping by!


september girl 5 years ago

I have never heard of them before, until now. Thanks for sharing this unique and beautiful creature of the sea. : ) Voted up and interesting.


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 5 years ago from Texas Author

september girl - I'm pleased to be able to introduce you to these beautiful creatures. Thanks for the comments and the vote up!!!


Cloverleaf profile image

Cloverleaf 5 years ago from Calgary, AB, Canada

WOW these are really beautiful little creatures, homesteadbound. I have never even heard of these before. What a great job you are doing of sourcing out all your photographs, they are amazing. Voted up and awesome!

Cloverleaf.


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 5 years ago from Texas Author

Cloverleaf - now you have something else to look for on one of your Caribbean vacations. They are gorgeous, but they are also very small. Thanks for the votes


VENZKHVAM profile image

VENZKHVAM 5 years ago from Milk way galaxy, trying to find a more adventurous place in another galaxy with my great followers

Dear Homesteadbound,

Those are very beautifull little amusements of life.Where do you get these things. My daughter loved when I showed this to her.thanks for sharing this with us.

I am voting up and beautiful

I am following you with pleasure and wishing to hear from you too in my hubs.


jean2011 profile image

jean2011 5 years ago from Canada

Thank you for this awesome hub! Oh the beauty of nature! I must confess, these worms are beautiful. I have voted this hub awesome.


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 5 years ago from Texas Author

VENZKHVAM - I don't have any of them now. I glad that both you and your daughter enjoyed them. They are truly interesting and beautiful. Thanks for commenting and for the votes!


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 5 years ago from Texas Author

jean2011 - thanks for stopping by. Nature does indeed provide us with many wonders. And some are so intricately small, such as this one. Thanks for the comment and the votes.


dlegler 5 years ago

What a beautiful little creature. I hope to see them next time I go diving.


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

What an amazing hub and I am voting up here without a doubt.

Take care and here's to many more to share on here.

Eiddwen.


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 5 years ago from Texas Author

dlegler - I hope you get to see one when you go diving also. Thanks for stopping by and for commenting.

Eiddwen - Thanks for the vote up. I'm very pleased that you enjoyed it. Looking forward to sharing many more with your also. Thanks for stopping by!


rosettaartist1 profile image

rosettaartist1 5 years ago from United Kingdom

Awesome creatures.


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 5 years ago from Texas Author

rosettaartist1 - they really are beautiful and oh so quick! It's amazing how quick they are. Thanks for visiting!


CMHypno profile image

CMHypno 5 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

What beautiful creatures and great photos! I had never even heard of them before, so thanks for sharing homesteadbound


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 5 years ago from Texas Author

CMHypno, they really are beautiful and fascinating. When I had my aquarium, I would watch them interact with their environment, retreating when something approached and then slowly testing the waters to return to their full feeding glory. Thanks for stopping by!


anjperez profile image

anjperez 5 years ago

this is a hub full of inspiration. love it.


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 5 years ago from Texas Author

anjperez - I am thrilled that you enjoyed the article. Christmas tree worms are truly fascinating. Thanks for stopping by and visiting!


Barbara Kay profile image

Barbara Kay 5 years ago from USA

These are beautiful. I thought this would be about a new tree decoration. What a surprise. I learn something new on here everyday.


jami l. pereira 5 years ago

Oh so beautiful little guys arent they !:) I loved this and all of the pictures too ! so colorful an animal and so many different ones , cool write ! I loved it and voted up all the way across , except funny , have a great evening:)


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 5 years ago from Texas Author

Barbara Kay - worms could be a very interesting Christmas decoration indeed, but these are much more exquisite without the fir tree. LOL

They are remarkably beautiful. thanks for stopping by!


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

Such beautiful sea creatures! There is as much beauty under our oceans as on our lands of Mother Earth. Thanks for sharing this hub about the Christmas Tree Worms. Up, useful and beautiful ratings!


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 5 years ago from Texas Author

jami - There really are gorgeous creatures. Thanks for the votes, and thanks for stopping by. You have a great week. I will try to stop by and visit your hubs soon.


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 5 years ago from Texas Author

Peggy W - since I can't swim, I rarely get to see any of these creatures that fascinate me so, close up. So I am so pleased to be able to view the awesome videos and pictures and get to experience them without the fear I have of water. And they inspire me to write about them. I was my pleasure, and thank you for stopping by!


Ahydz profile image

Ahydz 5 years ago from Philippines

Mesmerizing colors of creatures but I dreaded them the most. I don't know why all of my tiny hairs all over my body will stand by seeing any of its kind on land or in waters. But don't get me wrong, I really appreciate their importance in the ecosystem. If I have to overcome a fear factor, this will be the number 1 of all of my fears. I even told my family to never bury me underground when my time on earth is up, instead be cremated. hahaha! Whatta pathetic me. I find them lovely and scary at the same time.


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 5 years ago from Texas Author

Ahydz - I am sorry that you have such a fear of these creatures. These particular ones are very beautiful.

Thanks you for taking time on an article that obviously caused you some discomfort.

Thanks so much for stopping by!


Ahydz profile image

Ahydz 5 years ago from Philippines

I wanna overcome it though. It's kind of funny being afraid of such tiny and beautiful creatures.

You've done a great job on this hub!


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 5 years ago from Texas Author

Ahydz - It is very brave of you to want to overcome your fears. And these guys are really much smaller than these pictures indicate. You would hardly notice them if you were in the water. And, it may be hard to believe but they are more scared of you than you are of them.

I'm glad you enjoyed the hub, and I'm wishing you all the luck in dealing with your fears.


StephanieBCrosby profile image

StephanieBCrosby 5 years ago from New Jersey

I love Christmas tree worms. Back when I was going to be a marine biologist, this definitely would have been one of the creatures to study. I find them so cool that I was going to submit an article as part of an assignment for my certification course to hopefully be pitched for publication. I never got around to doing this article though. Thanks for sharing the information.


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 5 years ago from Texas Author

StephanieBCrosby - I love them also. How cool. I think I would have liked to have been a marine biologist, but ... it wasn't even anything I thought about, but later, most definitely. I bet studying marine biology and all the sciences would be a tough road to hoe. Too bad you never did the article. I would have liked to have read it.

Thanks for stopping by and for commenting.


5 years ago

Fascinating. So are they similar to anemones?

Voted up.


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 5 years ago from Texas Author

f - not really. They really are more like a Christmas tree with a central spike that is surrounded by the feathery branches. And they are extremely small. But they are packed with beauty. The ones I had in my aquarium were all less than 1/2" tall.

Great question. Thanks for stopping by and for the votes.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 4 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

Amazingly beautiful creatures. Thanks so much for presenting them here; otherwise, I'd probably never have known of them. Loved the Christmas in July clip!


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 4 years ago from Texas Author

Sally's Trove - I really find them to be both fascinating and beautiful. Glad I was able to share them with you. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting.


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon

you continue to amaze and enlighten me, Cindy. Thankfully, since God is so creative, there are countless creatures to discover and, therefore, hubs for you to write! UP and shared...


freelanceauthor profile image

freelanceauthor 4 years ago

Amazingly beautiful. Great photos and nice hub. Thanks for the share, voted up.


georgiecarlos profile image

georgiecarlos 4 years ago from Philippines

This is really interesting! And I learned something new today! Voted up!


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 4 years ago from Texas Author

PDXKaraokeGuy - Thanks so much for stopping by and reading about these wonderful and awesome creatures. And thanks so much for your generous words. I hope to write many more articles about the ocean. Thanks!


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 4 years ago from Texas Author

freelanceauthor - Thanks so much for stopping by and enjoying these beautiful creatures. Thanks for the votes.


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 4 years ago from Texas Author

georgiecarlos - I am so pleased to have been able to share this wonderful creature with you. Thanks so much for stopping by!


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon

Cindy... I hope to keep reading!


homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 4 years ago from Texas Author

PDXKaraokeGuy - You just keep on reading. I will be doing another 30/30 challenge very soon and will have more for you to pick from. Thanks so much!

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