Bearded Fireworm (Hermodice Carunculata)
Latin name: Hermodice carunculata
Common name: Bearded fireworm
Distribution: Found in all the world’s tropical and subtropical waters.
Habitat: Living on many different types of bottoms.
Behaviour: When the fire worm is threatened it can spread the bristles on its segments. The bristles easily penetrate the skin, where they break off and cause a burning sensation that can last for weeks.
Diet: Fire worms prey on many different invertebrates and belong to the few animals than can even eat sea anemones. They are also scavengers; any dead animal on the bottom of the sea will attract them from far away.
Size: The fireworm can reach a length of 30cm and grow to the thickness of a finger.
Colour and Shape: The colour can vary from red to green with golden rings between the segments. In addition to the two tufts of bristles, each segment bears a pair of red, branched gills. It also has a red appendage on the head called a caruncle. The function of this structure is unknown but is most likely to be a chemo-sensory organ associated with smell.