It’s that time of year! This week we bring you a festive sighting! The Christmas Tree Worm. Whilst these spectacularly coloured marine creatures are a favourite amongst guests and crew, very few know the importance of these little guys to our reef.
Much like trees that populate the land, Christmas Tree worms have complex ‘root systems’. They create a calcium carbonate tube that penetrates the corals they inhabit and can live within a coral for up to 40 years!
What role do they play on the reef?
Christmas tree worms have actually been observed protecting their coral hosts from predators such as the Crown of Thorns Starfish pushing away the feet of these attackers leaving the area around the worm’s tube intact.
There have also been observations of faster recovery of living coral tissue adjacent to the Christmas Tree Worms burrows follow events including coral bleaching, predation and algae overgrowth.
These creatures are not only festive in appearance, but they are an important part of the reefs ecosystem. This is the perfect example of no matter the size or shape of marine life found on the reef. All play a fundamental part in the overall health of the Great Barrier Reef.