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 photos copyright John P. Hoover unless otherwise credited

Interesting annelid worms not in Hawaii's Sea Creatures
Here's an (unofficial?) Bishop Museum list of Hawaiian polychaete worms

photo: Susan K Bryan

photo: Robert Johnson. Kawaihae, Hawai'i

Pherecardia cf. striata
Susan Bryan and Rob Johnson have both sent me photos of this worm with orange bristles. I forwarded them to polychaete specialist Leslie Harris. She writes: "There are 3 Hawaiian species that are routinely identified as Pherecardia striata. This is one of them. I had previously identified this as P. cf. striata for Scott Johnson http://www.underwaterkwaj.com/uw-misc/polychaete/Pherecardia-cf-striata.htm

This set of photos also by Scott Johnson is the "typical" P. striata - http://www.underwaterkwaj.com/uw-misc/polychaete/Pherecardia-striata.htm

And then here's the third - http://pictolife.net/pages/popup.php?espece=Vers&id=38&menu=7 There's DNA for at least 2 of them and they're clearly different."

The "typical" form is also illustrated on p. 82 of my book with the common name Lined Fireworm.


Family Syllidae, subfamily Syllinae
Karolle Wall on Maui writes: "I found this worm under a rock a fair ways outside of the Kalepolepo fishpond today in about 3 metres of water. I’m thinking it’s a Branchiosyllis cirropunctata, but there’s something about the way it's segmented that doesn’t seem quite right. Beautiful worm, but without the microscopic setting on my camera I would never have seen the syllia. Approximately 75 mm though not entirely sure as it was fast and hard to judge."

Karolle asked polychaete specialist Leslie Harris whether her ID was correct. Leslie replied “Nope. The species name cirropunctata refers to black spots on the dorsal cirri. This doesn't have any pigmentation. Subfamily Syllinae is as far as we can go from the photo."


Chloeia amphora
      Kim Sakamoto found this worm in July 2021 at the Curtiss Helldiver wreck off Sugar beach on Maui, and Kevin Roe photographed it. The worm was about 3 inches long and was active by day. The depth was about 55 ft. Kevin
sent the photos to polychaete worm specialist Leslie Harris, who replied: "Your critter is Chloeia amphora. If you think of the segmental markings as U's or V's the association with the name amphora becomes clear."

This species does not appear on the Bishop Museum list of polychaete worms known from Hawai'i, so Kim's find might well be a new record for the Islands.



Unidentified phyllodocid polychaete worm
      Rebecca Bicker writes: "I saw this worm on 8/6/20 at Kealia Pond area in Maui. I saw it on top
of shallow reef at about 7 feet deep. Some surge in that spot." She adds that it moved quickly and was about a foot long.

I did not know what it was, or even if it was a worm, because the head tentacles resembled those of a synaptid sea cucumber. Cory Pittman didn't know either, so he sent the photo to Gustav Paulay at the Florida Museum of Natural History. Gustav replied: "It is a phyllodocid polychaete. The head fits, and they often have really gaudy coloration. They are long, thin worms."

Cory also sent the photo to polychaete worm specialist Leslie Harris who replied:

The pigmentation of Rebecca's worm looks remarkably similar to ... one
photographed in Moorea by Gustav's Biocode group. It is a phyllodocid
and could belong to one of several genera. If I could see the full
outline of the 3rd pair of tentacular cirri (the small pair hidden
behind the others just behind the head) I'd have a better idea of genus
but I can't.

Interesting to know that the same species seems to be in Hawaii. Since
there are only 2 photos of this I've no idea if it's native to the ocean
around Moorea or to Hawaii or both. In my experience orange and yellow
pigmentation in live phyllodocids turns brown or black when preserved.
If this is a described beast it was probably described from preserved
specimens which means we can't match it through literature descriptions.
If you ever get one please preserve it for me - I'd love to figure it
out. If John can spread the word to his followers so they're on the
look out for specimens as well that would be great.

More photos of this rare worm would be welcome!


      Ralph Turre found and photographed this yellow worm off Sugar Beach, Kihei, Maui, in April 2014. It corresponds well with photos of Chloeia fusca in Humann and DeLoach's book Reef Creature Identification: Indo-Pacific. According to the book, the bristles can be yellow, brownish, or white, but the two parallel dark lines down the center of the worm are diagnostic.
The similar Golden Fireworm, Chloeia flava, also occurs in Hawai`i. Instead of parallel lines, it has a series of dark spots outlined in white running down the center of the body. Both are widespread Indo-Pacific species.

Below is another photo of Chloeia fusca taken by Robert Johnson at Kawaihae, Hawai'i. The ID was confirmed by polychaete worm specialist Leslie Harris of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.


Chloeia sp.
      The worm in this photo was found in 2006 by Darcy Kehler near Buzz's Wharf restaurant in Lahaina, Maui, at night. Cory Pittman photographed it. Although it resembles the worm above identified as Chloeia fusca, I wasn't at all sure, so I sent the photos to polychaete worm specialist Leslie Harris. Leslie says it is in the same genus but was unable to identify the exact species. (Historical note: Leslie initially thought it was a species of Notopygos and I posted it as such. Later she wrote: "I was wrong about using the caruncle to separate Chloeia & Notopygos. Much simpler & correct to use the branchiae -- pinnate in Chloeia, arborescent in Notopygos.")


photo: Dick Lundholm

MARINE LEECH 1 Trachelobdella lubrica ?
      Sharon Williams found this animal at the dive site called Manta Ray Bay, near Honokohau Harbor on the Kona coast of the Big Island. Dick Lundholm took these photos. Dick reports that it was about 1 to 1 1/2 inches long and was curling and uncurling, extending itself and contracting.
      Leeches are a type of segmented worm in the Phylum Annelida. (Bristle worms, fireworms, Christmas tree worms, spaghetti worms, and earthworms all belong in this group.) Leeches are distinct in that they have a sucker at each end of the body. Most but not all are blood-suckers which attach to other animals. This one was probably waiting for a fish to swim by. Sharks in Hawaii often bear other species of leeches on the gills or fins.
      Leeches live in fresh water, in salt water, and on land. At least 160 species are marine, most of which occur in polar seas, or in cold temperate waters. At least 3 are known so far from Hawai`i.
I sent the photos to Dr Eugene M. Burreson of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, who replied: "The large bulges on the side are called pulsatile vesicles. My guess is that it is Trachelobdella lubrica, a leech that is fairly common on the gills of tropical marine fishes (non-elasmobranchs), and known from Hawaii. T. lubrica has large pulsatile vesicles like the ones in the picture. I have examined specimens of it in the Bishop Museum. There are few good photos of marine leeches in their natural habitat, so it was a pleasure to see this one.
Pauline Fiene adds "We have seen a different species on whitetips and they move just like that."

photo: Dick Lundholm

photo: Dick Lundholm

photo: Dick Lundholm

MARINE LEECH 2 Stibarobdella macrothela
      Kara Osada of Hilo sent me this photo collage of a leech which was removed from a manta ray. Dr. Eugene M. Burreson writes: "Based on the large orange ocular eyespot on the oral sucker in one of the photos, the leech is likely Stibarobdella macrothela Schmarda. This leech is relatively common on tropical sharks and less common on rays. It is known from Hawaii." Subsequently, Pauline Fiene sent me a couple more shots of the same species (the bottom one taken by Warren Blum in Maalaea Bay, Maui). Dr. Burreson writes: "The first picture is definitely Stibarobdella macrothela because of the paired, large, orange eyespots. My previous message to Kara may have suggested that there is only one eyespot, because that's all I could see in her photo, but they are definitely paired. The second leech is most probably also S. macrothela, but I can't see the oral sucker very well. It is interesting to get these photos of live leeches to see the variation in color. Most specimens I have seen (rarely alive) are greenish with white tubercles on some segments, but these seem to be more purple. I have also seen them with orange pigmentation."

photo: Pauline Fiene

photo: Warren Blum


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  Text and photos copyright John P. Hoover unless otherwise credited