A close-up view of the head of a clam worm (Nereis spp.)
What type of habitat do clam worms prefer?
Courtesy: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Despite their name, clam worms are common in a variety of benthic habitats, including sandflats, mudflats, shellfish beds, and algal mats. Some species can also be found living among barnacles and encrusting algae (fouling communities) on man-made structures, such as pilings.
Where can they be found in the coastal U.S.?
Clam worms are ubiquitous in distribution, common in marine and estuarine waters along the West, East, and Gulf Coasts. Some species can be found in the intertidal zone among rocks or in mudflats and sandflats of higher salinity waters; others are found in marshes reaching salinities of 9 practical salinity units (psu) at low tide.
What do clam worms look like?
Clam worms are segmented worms belonging to the class polychaeta, meaning "a number of bristles." Each body segment has a pair of small paddle-shaped appendages (parapodia), in which are embedded tiny hairs or bristles. Clam worms have four pairs of tentacles, one pair of antennae, and one pair of fleshy lobes (palps) on the head region.
Why are they important benthic species?
Clam worms play important ecological roles in the lower food web. They consume algae and small invertebrates (such as other worms) and serve as food for larger invertebrates and bottom-feeding fish.
Did you know?
When feeding, the clam worm extends its proboscis, which contains hook-like jaws to grasp its prey, and then retracts the proboscis to draw the food into its mouth.
Posted by: Kelly Source