Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Tough, armed and omnivorous: Hermodice carunculata (Annelida: Amphinomidae) is prepared for ecological challenges

  • Anja Schulze (a1), Candace J. Grimes (a1) and Tiffany E. Rudek (a1)

The bearded fireworm, Hermodice carunculata, is a common species in the marine annelid taxon Amphinomidae. It has a widespread distribution throughout the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean, Mediterranean and Red Seas. We review its environmental tolerances, defence mechanisms and feeding habits to evaluate its potential to survive in changing ocean conditions, to increasingly emerge as a nuisance species and to invade new geographic areas. Hermodice carunculata tolerates a wide range of environmental conditions, including temperature, salinity, oxygen saturation and various types of pollution. It has few natural predators because it is protected by its sharp chaetae and probably by toxins. Hermodice carunculata is best known for consuming live cnidarians, and has been implicated in transmitting coral pathogens, but it also feeds non-selectively on detritus. In the short term, we predict that H. carunculata will be able to withstand many future ecological challenges and possibly contribute to coral reef decline. In the long term, ocean acidification may negatively impact its defence mechanisms and survival. Its invasive potential may be significant. We highlight the gaps in our knowledge about the reproduction and development of this species, the nature and origin of its toxins and role of microbes in their feeding behaviour and defensive strategies.

Corresponding author
Correspondence should be addressed to: A. Schulze, Department of Marine Biology, Texas A&M University – Galveston Campus, 200 Seawolf Parkway, Galveston, TX 77553, USA email:
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

J.B. Ahrens , E. Borda , R. Barroso , P.C. Paiva , A.M. Campbell , A. Wolf , M.M. Nugues , G.W. Rouse and A. Schulze (2013) The curious case of Hermodice carunculata (Annelida: Amphinomidae): evidence for genetic homogeneity throughout the Atlantic Ocean and adjacent basins. Molecular Ecology 22, 22802291.

J.B. Ahrens , J.D. Kudenov , C.D. Marshall and A. Schulze (2014) Regeneration of posterior segments and terminal structures in the bearded fireworm, Hermodice carunculata (Annelida: Amphinomidae). Journal of Morphology 275, 11031112.

A. Arias , R. Barroso , N. Anadón and P.C. Paiva (2013) On the occurrence of the fireworm Eurythoe complanata complex (Annelida, Amphinomidae) in the Mediterranean Sea with an updated revision of the alien Mediterranean amphinomids. ZooKeys 337, 1933.

R. Barroso , D. Almeida , M. Contins , D. Filgueiras and R. Dias (2016) Hermodice carunculata (Pallas, 1766) (Polychaeta: Amphinomidae) preying on starfishes. Marine Biodiversity 46, 333334.

E. Borda , J.D. Kudenov , C. Bienhold and G.W. Rouse (2012) Towards a revised Amphinomidae (Annelida, Amphinomida): description and affinities of a new genus and species from the Nile Deep-sea Fan, Mediterranean Sea. Zoologica Scripta 41, 307325.

E. Borda , J.D. Kudenov , P. Chevaldonne , J.A. Blake , D. Desbruyeres , M.C. Fabri , S. Hourdez , F. Pleijel , T.M. Shank , N.G. Wilson , A. Schulze and G.W. Rouse (2013) Cryptic species of Archinome (Annelida: Amphinomida) from vents and seeps. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B 280, 20131876.

M. Byrne and R. Przeslawski (2013) Multistressor impacts of warming and acidification of the ocean on marine invertebrates’ life histories. Integrative and Comparative Biology 53, 582596.

R. Calado , A. Vitorino , G. Dionísio and M.T. Dinis (2007) A recirculated maturation system for marine ornamental decapods. Aquaculture 263, 6874.

F. Cardigos , A. Colaço , P.R. Dando , S.P. Ávila , P.M. Sarradin , F. Tempera , P. Conceição , A. Pascoal and R. Serrão Santos (2005) Shallow water hydrothermal vent field fluids and communities of the D. João de Castro Seamount (Azores). Chemical Geology 224, 153168.

A. Cosentino and S. Giacobbe (2011) The new potential invader Linopherus canariensis (Polychaeta: Amphinomidae) in a Mediterranean coastal lake: colonization dynamics and morphological remarks. Marine Pollution Bulletin 62, 236245.

G. De'ath , K.E. Fabricius , H. Sweatman and M. Puotinen (2012) The 27-year decline of coral cover on the Great Barrier Reef and its causes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 109, 1799517999.

P. Descombes , M.S. Wisz , F. Leprieur , V. Parravicini , C. Heine , S.M. Olsen , D. Swingedouw , M. Kulbicki , D. Mouillot and L. Pellissier (2015) Forecasted coral reef decline in marine biodiversity hotspots under climate change. Global Change Biology 21, 24792487.

S. Dupont and M.C. Thorndike (2009) Impact of CO2-driven ocean acidification on invertebrates early life-history – What we know, what we need to know and what we can do. Biogeosciences Discussions 6, 31093131.

G.J. Eckert (1985) Absence of toxin-producing parapodial glands in amphinomid polychaetes (fireworms). Toxicon 23, 350353.

R.H. Emson , C.M. Young and G.L.J. Paterson (1993) A fire worm with a sheltered life: studies of Benthoscolex cubanus Hartman (Amphinomidae), an internal associate of the bathyal sea-urchin Archeopneustes hystrix (A. Agassiz, 1880). Journal of Natural History 27, 10131028.

S. Faulwetter , A. Vasileiadou , M. Kouratoras , T. Dailianis and C. Arvanitidis (2013) Micro-computed tomography: introducing new dimensions to taxonomy. ZooKeys 263, 145.

J.D. Ferraris (1981) Oxygen uptake with acute variation in temperature and salinity in two coral reef polychaetes. Marine Ecology 2, 159168.

S.C. Frontana-Uribe and V. Solís-Weiss (2011) First records of polychaetous annelids from Cenote Aerolito (sinkhole and anchialine cave) in Cozumel Island, Mexico. Journal of Cave and Karst Studies 73, 110.

V. Gerovasileiou , C. Chintiroglou , D. Vafidis , D. Koutsoubas , M. Sini , T. Dailianis , Y. Issaris , E. Akritopoulou , D. Dimarchopoulou and E. Voutsiadou (2015) Census of biodiversity in marine caves of the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Mediterranean Marine Science 16, 245265.

S. Gleibs , D. Mebs and B. Werding (1995) Studies on the origin and distribution of palytoxin in a Caribbean coral reef. Toxicon 33, 15311537.

B.W. Halstead (1971) Venomous echinoderms and annelids: starfishes, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, and segmented worms. In W. Bücherl and E.E. Buckley (eds) Venomous animals and their venoms. Waltham, MA: Academic Press, pp. 419441.

A.C. Heilskov , M. Alperin and M. Holmer (2006) Benthic fauna bio-irrigation effects on nutrient regeneration in fish farm sediments. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 339, 204225.

A.J. Kohn , J.W. Nybakken and J.-J. Van Mol (1972) Radula tooth structure of the gastropod Conus imperialis elucidated by scanning electron microscopy. Science 176, 49.

K.J. Kroeker , R.L. Kordas , R. Crim , I.E. Hendriks , L. Ramajo , G.S. Singh , C.M. Duarte and J.-P. Gattuso (2013) Impacts of ocean acidification on marine organisms: quantifying sensitivities and interaction with warming. Global Change Biology 19, 18841896.

K.J. Kroeker , R.L. Kordas , R.N. Crim and G.G. Singh (2010) Meta-analysis reveals negative yet variable effects of ocean acidification on marine organisms. Ecology Letters 13, 14191434.

H. Kurihara (2008) Effects of CO2-driven ocean acidification on the early developmental stages of invertebrates. Marine Ecology Progress Series 373, 275284.

M.C. Ladd and A.A. Shantz (2016) Novel enemies – previously unknown predators of the bearded fireworm. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 14, 342343.

J.R. Marsden (1963) The digestive tract of Hermodice carunculata (Pallas). Polychaeta: Amphinomidae. Canadian Journal of Zoology 41, 165184.

A.M. McCammon and W.R. Brooks (2014) Protection of host anemones by snapping shrimp: a case for symbiotic mutualism? Symbiosis 63, 7178.

J. Micael , J.M.N. Azevedo and A.C. Costa (2006) Biological characterisation of a subtidal tunnel in São Miguel island (Azores). Biodiversity and Conservation 15, 36753684.

M.W. Miller , K.E. Lohr , C.M. Cameron , D.E. Williams and E.C. Peters (2014) Disease dynamics and potential mitigation among restored and wild staghorn coral, Acropora cervicornis . PeerJ 2, e541.

M.W. Miller and D.E. Williams (2007) Coral disease outbreak at Navassa, a remote Caribbean island. Coral Reefs 26, 97101.

K. Nakamura , Y. Tachikawa , M. Kitamura , O. Ohno , M. Suganuma and D. Uemura (2008) Complanine, an inflammation-inducing substance isolated from the marine fireworm Eurythoe complanata . Organic and Biomolecular Chemistry 6, 20582060.

B. Ott and J.B. Lewis (1972) The importance of the gastropod Coralliophila abbreviata (Lamarck) and the polychaete Hermodice carunculata (Pallas) as coral reef predators. Canadian Journal of Zoology 50, 16511656.

P. Ottuso (2013) Aquatic dermatology: encounters with the denizens of the deep (and not so deep) a review. Part I: the invertebrates. International Journal of Dermatology 52, 136152.

J.M. Pandolfi , S.R. Connolly , D.J. Marshall and A.L. Cohen (2011) Projecting coral reef futures under global warming and ocean acidification. Science 333, 418.

F.F.Y. Radwan , L.G. Román , K. Baksi and J.W. Burnett (2005) Toxicity and mAChRs binding activity of Cassiopea xamachana venom from Puerto Rican coasts. Toxicon 45, 107112.

R. Riera , O. Pérez , M. Rodríguez , E. Ramos and Ó. Monterroso (2014) Are assemblages of the fireworm Hermodice carunculata enhanced in sediments beneath offshore fish cages? Acta Oceanologica Sinica 33, 108111.

F. Sander (1973) A comparative study of respiration in two tropical marine polychaetes. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A: Physiology 46, 311323.

J.G. Shiber (1981) Metal concentrations in certain coastal organisms from Beirut. Hydrobiologia 83, 181195.

J.E. Smith , M. Shaw , R.A. Edwards , D. Obura , O. Pantos , E. Sala , S.A. Sandin , S. Smriga , M. Hatay and F.L. Rohwer (2006) Indirect effects of algae on coral: algae-mediated, microbe-induced coral mortality. Ecology Letters 9, 835845.

M.L. Smith (2002) Cutaneous problems related to coastal and marine worms. Dermatologic Therapy 15, 3437.

E.W. Stoner and C.A. Layman (2015) Bristle worms attack: benthic jellyfish are not trophic dead ends. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 13, 226227.

M. Sussman , Y. Loya , M. Fine and E. Rosenberg (2003) The marine fireworm Hermodice carunculata is a winter reservoir and spring-summer vector for the coral-bleaching pathogen Vibrio shiloi . Environmental Microbiology 5, 250255.

D.L.N. Vink and R. von Cosel (1985) The Conus cedonulli complex: historical review, taxonomy and biological observations. Revue Suisse de Zoologie 92, 525603.

B.M. von Reumont , L.I. Campbell , S. Richter , L. Hering , D. Sykes , J. Hetmank , R.A. Jenner and C. Bleidorn (2014) A polychaete's powerful punch: venom gland transcriptomics of Glycera reveals a complex cocktail of toxin homologs. Genome Biology and Evolution 6, 24062423.

H.V. Vreeland and H.R. Lasker (1989) Selective feeding of the polychaete Hermodice carunculata Pallas on Caribbean gorgonians. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 129, 265277.

A.T. Wolf and M.M. Nugues (2013) Predation on coral settlers by the corallivorous fireworm Hermodice carunculata . Coral Reefs 32, 227231.

A.T. Wolf , M.M. Nugues and C. Wild (2014) Distribution, food preference, and trophic position of the corallivorous fireworm Hermodice carunculata in a Caribbean coral reef. Coral Reefs 33, 11531163.

B. Yáñez-Rivera and J. Brown (2015) Fireworms (Amphinomidae: Annelida) from Ascension and Saint Helena Island, Central South Atlantic Ocean. Marine Biodiversity Records 8, e149.

B. Yáñez-Rivera and S.I. Salazar-Vallejo (2011) Revision of Hermodice Kinberg, 1857 (Polychaeta: Amphinomidae). Scientia Marina 75, 251262.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom
  • ISSN: 0025-3154
  • EISSN: 1469-7769
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-the-marine-biological-association-of-the-united-kingdom
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 6
Total number of PDF views: 44 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 290 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 27th February 2017 - 27th June 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.