Sunday 9 January 2011

Common Whelk (Buccinum undatum) encrusted with Keel worms (Pomertoceros triqueter)

This shell, probably of the Common Whelk which is a gastropod that lives relatrively close inshore and feeds on seaweeds, has been encrusted with the Keel worm, which is also common.  This one was found on the Strand near Uiskentuie yesterday.  Whelk egg cases are often found washed up on our shores, looking rather like scrunched up piles of beige bubble wrap.  Baby whelks are cannibalistic apparently - the first ones to hatch eat their siblings...

Above is a close up view of live Keel Worms.  You can see the feathery tentacles of this filter feeder sticking out of the end of the calcareous tube in which the worm lives. It is extremely common in all rocky areas of Britain's coastline where it can be found adhering to virtually any hard surface. In the photograph it has established itself on an area of encrusting red algae which itself has grown over a section of bedrock. It is a very successful animal as its hard tube appears to be resistant to the browsing activities of other animals such as sea urchins.


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