Northern Feather-Duster Worm

Northern feather-duster, Eudistylia vancouveri
Northern feather-duster, Eudistylia vancouveri, Oregon

Balancing precariously on the edge of a crevice above a rarely exposed and kind of spooky low tidepool, I came eyeball to photosensitive eyespot with this impressive clump of Eudistylia vancouveri. Not true – I came eyeball to parchment tube – the actual worms (eyespots and all) withdrew with the falling tide, and by the time I found them in the early morning gloom, all I could see were their tubes.

Northern feather-duster, Eudistylia vancouveri
Northern feather-duster, Eudistylia vancouveri

Made of solidified mucus-coated sand, the tubes are said to be tough. I didn’t test the claim, but living on vertical walls in the heavy surf of the exposed outer coast, they’d better be. Lamb and Hanby, in Marine Life of the Pacific Northwest, call E. vancouveri clusters groves, and say that record-sized groves contain over 375,000 worms; I’d like to see one of those.

One of the most interesting things I discovered while preparing this post was the diversity of terms used to describe the life form of this gregarious feather-duster. What I initially called a clump, others have called a cluster, clump, colony, and mass. Ricketts and Calvin, true to form, brought their A-game with shrublike mass. I’ve got to go, however, with Lamb and Hanby’s grove. A big grove of E. vancouveri clinging to a vertical crevice wall in a low tidepool, surf crashing and thousands of tentacular crowns extended (blueberry/green and maroon – and up to 2.4″/6 cm in diameter); well, that would be an image that would stick with you a while.

References

Harbo, R. M. 2011. Whelks to Whales: Coastal Marine Life of the Pacific Northwest. 2nd ed. Harbour Publishing Co.

Kozloff, E. N. 1993. Seashore Life of the Northern Pacific Coast. 3rd ed. University of Washington Press.

Light, S. F., 2007. The Light & Smith Manual: Intertidal Invertebrates from Central California to Oregon. 4th ed., edited by J. T. Carlton. University of California Press.

Lamb, A. and B. P. Hanby. 2005. Marine Life of the Pacific Northwest. Harbour Publishing.

Ricketts, E. W. and J. Calvin. 1968. Between Pacific Tides. 4th ed., revised by J. W. Hedgpeth. Stanford University Press.

Sept. J. D. 2009. The Beachcomber’s Guide to Seashore Life in the Pacific Northwest. Revised ed. Harbour Publishing.