Ice Cream Cone Worm (Pectinaria gouldi Verrill)

Ice Cream Cone Worm
Pectinaria gouldi Verrill

Ice Cream Cone Worm:
Worm Castles

By Patricia B. Mitchell.

The Ice Cream Cone Worm, or Trumpet Worm, is rather odd. The animal forms a tube of sand around itself. The walls of the tube are one grain of sand thick. (Using bristles and tentacles which protrude from its “head,” the worm conveys organic material and sand to its oral cavity. He selects nourishment, as well as proper-sized grains of sand for “construction.”) As the worm grows, he lengthens the large end of the slightly conical tube by adding courses of fitted and mortared sand grains. The “sand castle” is rigid, but, needless to say, quite fragile. It may be as long as 3 inches, and is open at both ends.

The Ice Cream Cone Worm lives beneath the surface of the sediment in shallow marine waters. His tube is positioned vertically or slant-ward in the substrate. The wide end of the sand-tube points downward, and the narrow end up, slightly above the surface of the sea floor sediment. He can use his bristles to “plug” the end of his sand tube when he withdraws. The worm eliminates matter from the upper end of the tube. Pectinaria gouldi is the only shallow-water species of Ice Cream Cone Worm that lives on the Carolina coast, where these worm “castles” were found.


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