classification help: what is this?
Hi there,
Does anyone know what the hell this is? It was spotted burrowing up from the beach in South Queensferry, just outside Edinburgh in Scotland. Coordinates 55º59’26.73″N 3º23’01.08″ W Upon closer inspection it had hundreds of small legs which expended from its body, a bit like a snails eye. It was as thick as a whiteboard marker, maybe an inch across, and maybe 12-14 inches long. The body was segmented but the segments looked to be fused together, more like a worm than a centipede. It has frills along each side and moves with a pulsating wriggling movement, which carried down the length of the body. I think the small end is the rear. Does anyone know what this thing might be?
Many Thanks
Chris


Hi Chris,
This is a Clam Worm, one of the Annelid Worms. It appears the old link we provided last year is no longer working, so we will provide the following information from the BVIO site: “The Common clam worm, Nereis succinea is a widely distributed polychaete worm. It is often referred to as a ragworm or sandworm, or simply as the clam worm, but these terms can all refer to any one of a number of other species of the genus Nereis (or indeed to other polychaetes). The name common clam worm is less ambiguous, but is also sometimes used for other Neries species such as N. virens. The common clam worm can reach up to 15cm in length, but most specimens are smaller than this. It is brown coloured at the rear, and reddish-brown on the rest of its body. It has an identifiable head with four eyes, two sensory feelers or palps, and eight tentacles. It is a freeswimming polychaete, scavenging on the bottom of shallow marine waters. It feeds on other worms, algae, and dead fish. To feed it uses a proboscis, which has two hooks at the end, to grasp prey and draw it into its mouth. Clamworms are an important food source for bottom-feeding fish and crustaceans, though they can protect themselves by secreting a mucus substance that hardens to form a sheath around them. During lunar phases in the spring and early summer, the clam worm undergoes heteronenesis. Their parapodia enlarge so they can swim. The clamworms are then capable of releasing eggs and sperm. After they have released their egg or sperm they die. Planktonic larvae develop, grow into annelids and eventually sink to the bottom of the water.”

Thank you very much – I’ve had a look at the clam worm (not a pretty beast) and it’s definitely our boy, though this guy was at least 25-30cm in length – In future I will use pocket change for scale. I suppose the size could have something to do with its close proximity to sewage outlets, I doubt it ever had trouble finding a hot meal. Thanks again for your response, it is very much appreciated.
Chris

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