Bristles That Sting

North-East Coast
January 2013
Bristle Worms (Polychaete) are segmented worms belonging to the phylum Annelida (segmented worms). They are found in all oceans from shallow intertidal reefs to deep depths. They live on or burrow into sand, mud, shell debris, rocks and coral rubble. Some eat their way through muddy sediments, some eat algae and others are accomplished predators. Their common predators are small fish, crabs and predatory snails.

Found commonly in beaches with stones at low tide... 

"Worm" is a common name which applies to a "shape" rather than a particular phylum or class of animals, much as "slug" applies to much more than opisthorbanch molluscs. Bristle Worms have bodies that are divided into segments. Except for the head and last segment, all the segments are generally similar. Each segment has a pair of flattened extensions called parapodia. These appendages are usually branched at the ends and covered with bristles, called setae. These bristly appendages are sometimes used to move (much like a centipede does) and to burrow.

Although Bristle Worms are not aggressive, they bite when handled, and the bristles can penetrate skin. These bristles contain poison and drop off easily, even in the water around them. The Bristle Worm bite or sting may cause inflammation, burning, swelling, numbness, redness or pain.

A magnified view which shows the fineness and fluroscence of the bristles...

More photos are available on Merlion Wayfarer Goes Green's Picasa at :