Diversity of reef organisms

A healthy reef supports a rich diversity of organisms.  CLICK ON a "hot" button to see some examples of Caribbean reef plants and animals. Throughout the VIRTUAL DIVE we’ll see these and many other reef-dwellers and will study what they do, how they behave, and how they interact. 

hot buttons for diversity section of BIOLOGY OF CARIBBEAN CORAL REEFS website diversity of corals diversity of gorgonians diversity of sponges diversity of worms diversity of molluscs diversity of crustaceans diversity of echinoderms diversity of tunicates diversity of turtles diversity of fishes diversity of sharks/mammals
icon for worm-diversity section of BIOLOGY OF CARIBBEAN CORAL REEFS website


There are over 600 species of worms in the Caribbean Sea, but only a few species are commonly seen on a single dive. The most visually obvious are the large tubeworms, including feather-duster, fan, and Christmas-tree worms. On sand bottoms the characteristic mounds of lugworms may be visible. Most free-living worms hide away during the day and emerge at night. Almost all are in the Class Polychaeta of Phylum Annelida.

seahorse dive leader for Biology of Caribbean Coral Reefs website photograph of tubeworm Bispira brunnea taken from a video

"Worms that can be seen most commonly on a dive are tube-dwelling ones like the feather-duster and Christmas-tree, and occasional fireworms. Most other free-living ones hide away during the day and come out only after dusk. " - Grand Cayman, 2007

NOTE Sabellastarte magnifica

NOTE Spirobranchus giganteus

NOTE also known as bristleworms Hermodice carunculata

A few common species of worms are shown below:

photograph of Christmas-tree worms Spirobranchus giganteus
Christmas-tree worms Spirobranchus giganteus have double crowns of tentacles with which they filter organic food particles from the water 1X



photograph of lugworm Arenicola cristata
The lugworm Arenicola sp. inhabits a U-shaped burrow and feeds on organic matter in the sand.  The sand passes from the mouth (shallow depression) to the anus and accumulates in a volcanic mound often with recognisable fecal casts at the top 0.5X

photograph of Caribbean tube-worm Sabellastarte magnifica
Feather-duster worm Sabellastarte magnifica living in a sponge 0.5X

photo composite of Caribbean worms Hermodice carunculata and Bispira brunnea
photograph of Caribbean tubeworm Anamobaea orstedii Split-crown feather-duster worms
Anamobaea orstedii in a brain coral 0.5X