Friday Harbor Marine Laboratories, University of Washington
San Juan Island, Washington
Archival Pigment Print
Usually when we see thin-walled, finely branched appendages on a marine animal, we can safely assume they’re involved in respiration. On a worm, the location of such gills is often an indication of lifestyle: If they’re concentrated around the head, the species probably lives a sedentary life hidden in a tube or burrow, with its head near the opening; if the gills run down the entire body, the animal is likely an active one that crawls about with its length exposed. The placement of the red, feathery gills on the ornate tubeworm is somewhere in between: large and numerous up front, increasingly smaller and sparser toward the back. The worm lives in a tube, but when feeding, extends its front end out to actively forage on the surrounding sand flat.