BIOTIC Species Information for Sabellaria spinulosa
Researched byLizzie Tyler Data supplied byUniversity of Sheffield
Refereed byThis information is not refereed.
Scientific nameSabellaria spinulosa Common nameRoss worm
MCS CodeP1117 Recent SynonymsNone

PhylumAnnelida Subphylum
Superclass ClassPolychaeta
Subclass OrderTerebellida
Suborder FamilySabellariidae
GenusSabellaria Speciesspinulosa

Additional InformationAt low densities, the tubes are attached to the substratum along the entire length but at greater densities competition for space results in the tubes overlapping and may cause the tubes to be built outwards, away from the substratum.
Taxonomy References Howson & Picton, 1997, Hayward & Ryland, 1995b, English Nature, 1998,
General Biology
Growth formTubicolous
Vermiform segmented
Feeding methodPassive suspension feeder
Active suspension feeder
Mobility/MovementPermanent attachment
Environmental positionEpifaunal
Typical food typesPhytoplankton HabitTubiculous
BioturbatorNot relevant FlexibilityNone (< 10 degrees)
FragilityIntermediate SizeSmall-medium(3-10cm)
Height2-3 cm Growth RateField unresearched
Adult dispersal potentialNone DependencyIndependent
General Biology Additional InformationCan be found in very high densities, for example when forming a reef. Typically found in lower densities as a crust or as individuals. At the Bristol Channel location studied by George & Warwick (1986), densities in excess of 4,000/m² for loosely aggregated Sabellaria spinulosa were recorded whilst the area sampled by Hiscock & Rostron (unpublished) on a level hard substratum had a single layer crust with 9,561 individual Sabellaria spinulosa in 1.4m². There has been considerable concern about decline in Sabellaria spinulosa reefs and shrimp fisheries have been implicated in the decline. However, Vorberg (2000) could find no damage caused after experiments with shrimp trawls in the Wadden Sea and suggests that declines might be more associated with changing patterns of currents perhaps associated with construction, dredging and dumping.
Biology References Hayward & Ryland, 1995b, English Nature, 1998, George & Warwick, 1985, Vorberg, 2000, Holt et al., 1998, Hayward & Ryland, 1995b, Heidi Tillin, unpub data, Julie Bremner, unpub data, Rees & Dare, 1993,
Distribution and Habitat
Distribution in Britain & IrelandAll British and Irish coasts
Global distributionArctic, North Sea, Channel, Atlantic
Biogeographic rangeNot researched Depth range
MigratoryNon-migratory / Resident   
Distribution Additional InformationNone entered

Substratum preferencesBedrock
Large to very large boulders
Small boulders
Physiographic preferencesOpen coast
Offshore seabed
Biological zoneUpper Infralittoral
Lower Infralittoral
Wave exposureVery Exposed
Moderately Exposed
Tidal stream strength/Water flowStrong (3-6 kn)
Moderately Strong (1-3 kn)
Habitat Preferences Additional InformationOften settles on Pecten maximus and Buccinum undatum and occasionally on Chlamys opercularis. Has strong settlement preference for tubes or sites currently or previously used by the species.
Distribution References Hayward & Ryland, 1995b, Hayward et al., 1996, Holt et al., 1998, Hayward & Ryland, 1995b, Julie Bremner, unpub data,
Reproduction/Life History
Reproductive typeGonochoristic
Developmental mechanismPlanktotrophic
Reproductive SeasonJanuary to March Reproductive LocationInsufficient information
Reproductive frequencyAnnual protracted Regeneration potential No
Life span3-5 years Age at reproductive maturity
Generation timeInsufficient information Fecundity100,000 to 1 million eggs
Egg/propagule size Fertilization typeInsufficient information
Larval/Juvenile dispersal potential>10km Larval settlement periodMarch
Duration of larval stage1-2 months   
Reproduction Preferences Additional InformationWilson (1970b) stated that the larvae spend between six weeks and two months in the plankton. Reproductive seasonality is unclear but George & Warwick (1985) and Wilson (1970) have both reported larval settlement in March in the Bristol Channel and Plymouth areas respectively. Wilson (1970) found a spawning period from January to March in Plymouth. Possibly has similar lifespan to Sabellaria alveolata (up to 9 years). Fecundity and recruitment may be variable (Holt et al., 1998) but may be similar to Sabellaria alveolata.
Reproduction References Wilson, 1970(b), George & Warwick, 1985, Holt et al., 1998, Heidi Tillin, unpub data, Julie Bremner, unpub data, Gruet & Lassus, 1983, Giangrande, 1997,
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