Below are some worms you might find out and about in the rocky intertidal or on the beaches. It isn’t a big set, I don’t flip rocks, dig around in the mussel beds, or otherwise do much disturbing, the kinds of things you would need to do to find some of the very cool worms. On the beaches, few worms make an above-ground appearance, and I confess I’ve turned a spade or two of sand to uncover the occupant of a likely burrow entrance. Identifying worms is a challenge, but that’s part of the fun (I can usually get close with the field guides and online resources listed at the bottom of this page). I’m mostly just trying to give my photographic take on common worms. As for the words, I’ll give a personal nots or a natural history note if I can think of something that resonates with me and hasn’t already been over-said.
I use the organization followed by Lamb and Hanby (2005). Common names are my choice. I refer to WoRMS for scientific names, and I learn a ton by browsing the natural history riches in Kozloff (1993). All photos are from northern Oregon unless otherwise noted in the caption.
Let the worms be upon you!
I might as well start right off with an identification mystery. This is a large worm, a bit fragile down toward the tail. I’ve seen it a few times when it appeared on the surface of exposed sandy beaches early in the morning during very low tides. It’s a beautiful worm that bears a resemblance to Scoletoma, maybe Scoletoma zonata (Lumbrineridae), but that’s just a starting point, I’m not sure it’s the right genus or even family.
This is a big goddess worm, the biggest you’ll find on the clean sandy beaches of the exposed outer coast. Healthy specimens are somewhat iridescent.
The first time I touched a mound I was surprised how hard it was. The few good-sized colonies I’ve come across have been in places that get some surf, though set back a bit, avoiding a direct pounding.
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.
Lamb, A. and B. P. Hanby. 2005. Marine Life of the Pacific Northwest. Harbour Publishing.
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.
Sept. J. D. 2009. The Beachcomber’s Guide to Seashore Life in the Pacific Northwest. Revised ed. Harbour Publishing.
Biodiversity of the Central Coast’s Marine Worms page
Friends of Netarts Bay WEBS Worms page
iNaturalist’s pages on worms are full of good browsing material. Here are some I looked at while preparing this page:
This page was updated slightly on May 8, 2020