Anyone that has known me online for very long knows that when I find a good article, I try to condense it and share it w/ the board. Well..I found one on a topic that we are all aware of, some of us have even had some painful close encounters with them, but we know very little about them. Bristleworms! (AKA Fireworms) This is an excerpt from an article by Dr. Ron I have tried to take the major points from it and post it here in a coherent thread. Hope it helps...and maybe provides a little information that you may have never know. For ease of reading, I have labeled each paragraph so that you can read what you find important and skip the rest. (this will soon be posted on our site incase you need to refer back to it or refer someone else.)
The Large Worm Turnsâ€¦
Other than the decorative feather-duster worms, the majority of the larger worms found in reef aquaria are found within one quite cohesive and well characterized taxonomic group, the Family Amphinomidae. The primary and, quite obvious, definitive character for this group are the regularly spaced tufts of bright white bristles located along the worms' sides. These tufts are very easily seen, but, more to the point, they are also detectable by tactile means. The squishing method of tactile worm examination employed by many hobbyists has given these animals the apt common name of "fireworms."
(how common are they)
Fireworms are really common in reef aquaria. They probably account for ninety or more percent of the worms seen in reef aquaria. Most fireworms are scavengers in tropical marine environments, albeit a few of the about 120 species are predatory, and one or two are parasitic. The fireworms that are most frequently found in aquaria may be very abundant. Even a small aquarium may have thousands of them, and they are beneficial scavengers.. One species, common in nature but rarely found in aquaria, is of concern to aquarists. This species, Hermodice carunculata, is predatory on stony corals and gorgonians. Fortunately, individuals of this species may be easily distinguished and removed from the system.
(how big do they get. Reproduction in the tank?)
Some fireworms often reach quite substantial sizes and aquarists are sometimes astonished to find that their tanks may contain worms over 18 inches (60 cm) in length, and with the diameter of a pencil.
These worms reproduce well in our systems and they are occasionally seen spawning copious amounts of pink sperm and eggs into the tank waters in a veritable vermous orgy. These spawning events produce a lot of gametes which are consumed by corals, soft corals and other filter feeding animals. Nonetheless, the odds of some reproductive success appear to be quite good, and Eurythoe seems to be able to maintain stable populations in aquaria indefinitely. These smaller species may reproduce more frequently by asexual than sexual means as indicated by the abundance of worms that are regenerating either front or back ends. As with the small starfish that are common in some reef aquaria, these worms reproduce asexually by fission, after which both halves produce the missing component.
(How they sting)
Such a coloration pattern is called aposematic or warning coloration and is common in well-defended animals (such as nudibranchs, skunks, or yellow-jacket wasps) in all habitats. These calcareous protective bristles have more than a warning function, however, and are protective as well as informational. They are barbed, hollow, and filled with a rather nasty irritating venom. Having been shaped by aeons of natural selection, they perform their defensive duties quite well. The bristles penetrate the flesh of any fish that tries to bite the worm. They fracture in the wound releasing the venom into the predator's tissues, and the bristles hold them in the wound increasing the irritation factor. The poison is not designed to kill anything, but it is designed to severely irritate the fish. As many fish can learn to avoid unpleasant stimuli, the bristles function to deter the predator. The bristles are eventually absorbed by the predator (or the aquarist) over a period of a couple of days, with no lasting harm, but leaving the potential predator with a real strong desire not to do that again.
(Non-reef safe Bristle worms. This one is not at all common.)
As the worm (Hermodice carunculata) lacks the jaws to sever the pieces of its prey, feeding in Hermodice is a prolonged process. When they feed, Hermodice individuals typically swallow the ends of a gorgonian or soft coral and then proceed to lick the flesh off of it, while the ends are still attached to the colony. Such feeding is a lengthy process; it takes hours. During this period the worm really isn't going to go anywhere, it is tethered to its dinner.
All other fireworms in our tanks are content to gum food or dead animals. They do not perceive of live animals as prey, and in particular, they will not eat or enter Tridacna as susupected commonly by aquarists. In nature, as well as in some reef aquaria, fireworms will aggregate under these large clams. It simply is a good haven for them. If the clam dies, they may gnaw on the corpse, but they won't attack and kill it. In fact, as they determine their prey by odor, they won't even perceive of any healthy animal as a food source, nor will they attack it.
Edited to include a link back to original author
The Large Worm Turnsâ€¦