Peacock worm (Sabella pavonina)

The peacock worm (also known as the fan worm) lives in a tough, membranous tube, which is covered in particles of mud. This flexible tube may reach up to 10cm above the sand. The head of the worm emerges from the tube in order to feed; a beautiful crown of feathery tentacles banded with purple, brown or red is extended during feeding. The body of the worm, hidden by the tube, is greyish-purple or yellowish orange in colour.

Peacock worm (Sabella pavonina) (DSC_6416)

Peacock worms often occur in large numbers. They provide habitats for other marine species, and may be found with sponges, seaweeds and ascidians (sea squirts) attached to them. Tiny hair-like structures on the tentacles known as ‘cilia’ filter suspended particles from the water. These particles are then sorted according to size; small ones are eaten, large ones are discarded and medium-sized particles are added to the top of the tube with mucus in order to increase its length.

Peacock worm (Sabella pavonina) (DSC_3951)

In this species, the sexes are separate (some worms are ‘hermaphroditic’), and breeding takes place in spring and summer. Unlike the sedentary, attached adults, the larval stage isplanktonic, drifting in the sea for a time before settling on the substrate.

Peacock worm (Sabella pavonina) (DSD_1723)



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This album is a visual log of my encounters during my dives around the Maltese Islands. Comments are very welcome. All images appearing in this website are the exclusive property of Matthew Farrugia and are protected under the International Copyright laws. The images may not be reproduced, copied, transmitted or manipulated without the written permission of Matthew Farrugia. Use of any image as the basis for another photographic concept or illustration (digital, artist rendering or alike both printed & online) is a violation of the International Copyright laws.
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By Matthew Farrugia | June, 4, 2012 | 2 comments

2 responses to “Peacock worm (Sabella pavonina)”

  1. Marina says:

    Lovely! At what depth are such worms found, please?

    • Hi Marina, they can be found at a relatively shallow depth such as as 8m or 10m. They are very popular in shady areas such as in caves and at night they are beautiful as they open at full stretch to feed on plankton

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