Jointed-Tube Worm     Spiochaetopterus costarum

"Look at all the sticks in the mud", shouted some 5th graders as they explored the tide flats.  These lucky kids were experiencing the wonders of a local beach at low tide under the guidance of the expert instructors of the Thurston Conservation District's South Sound Green program led by Anne Mills.

What they had found were a large colony of worms, polychaete worms, who live in leathery tubes encircled with regularly spaced rings.  The tubes, which stick one to two inches above the sediment, are about 1/16 of an inch in diameter and are buried around 8 to 10 inches deep.  

The worm spends its whole life within the protection of the tube.  It's body is composed of several different sections with the head end featuring two long feeding tentacles called palps which use mucus to collect food from the sand surface and probably the water as well.  The other body sections feature flaps for moving water within the tube.  They can withdraw deep in the tubes to avoid predators or surface disturbances.

This species occurs below the mid tide level in muddy sand to sandy beaches.  It ranges world-wide in the northern hemisphere. It is common from Puget Sound north.