Ploychaetes of family Pectinariidae are characterized by a gently tapering, tusk-shaped,
very fragile sand tube. The tube is composed of a single layer of sand
grains which are cemented with a proteinaceous glue (Watson 1928). The size
and shape of the sand grains used increases as the worm grows and the shape
of the tube is similar regardless of the sediment composition (Busch and
Loveland 1975). Gordon (1966) describes Pectinaria gouldii as
measuring approximately 4-6 cm in length. The tube is found in an oblique
position just below the surface of the sediment. The head of the worm,
located at the lower and larger end of the tube, has long paleae used for
digging and long ciliated tentacles which bring sediment to the mouth.
Some of this sediment may be rejected, but most of it is transported either
through the worm's gut or between its body and tube to the surface of the
mudflat where it is deposited as a small mound around the posterior end of the
tube. The worm excavates small caverns that continually collapse and fill
in with sediment from the sides and above.
Potentially Misidentified Species
Pectinariids have distinct tusk-shaped sand tubes which makes
identification to family simple. However, positive identification to
species level is generally beyond the scope of amateur naturalists.
HABITAT AND DISTRIBUTION
Pectinaria specimens are found in mudflats in shallow water
between the upper and lower tide marks. They are also dredged from 2 to17
fathoms in subtidal regions. Pectinaria gouldii range from Old Tampa
Bay, Florida (Simon and Dauer 1973), along Barnegat Bay, New Jersey (Busch
and Loveland 1975), and Ocean Pond, Fisher Island, New York (Whitlatch and
Weinberg 1982) to its northern limits in Massachusetts (Gordon 1966).
Pectinaria gouldii is found throughout the Indian River Lagoon
region according to an extensive EMAP (Environmental Monitoring and
Assessment Program) study conducted in 1994 in the Carolinian Province
(NOAA NBI undated).
LIFE HISTORY AND POPULATION BIOLOGY
Age, Size, Lifespan
Busch and Loveland (1975) reported that Pectinaria gouldii can live up to
one year in Barnegat Bay, New Jersey.
P. gouldii found in Hudson River Park, NY grow as large as 5 cm
(Ernst and Detrich 2006).
Carolinian Province EMAP study in 1994 reported densities of Pectinaria
gouldii to be as high as 1,550 individuals/m2.in the
Indian River Lagoon region (NOAA NBI undated).
Dehorne (1925) reported that Pectinariids are primarily monoecious i.e.
having both male and female gonads in the same animal. However, a study by
Tweedell (1996) describes how animals can be sexed under a stereomicroscope
by looking through the mid-ventral transparent body wall. This suggests
that the pectinariids may be either dioecious or else sequential
Adult animals spawn naturally from mid-August to early September in the
Cape Cod and Woods Hole areas (Austin 1963, Costello et al. 1957).
Normally, after maturation of the oocytes, spawning appears to be
triggered by temperature, and spawning will be delayed if the seawater
temperature stays low (Tweedell 1996).
Oocytes are shed into the water column where prematuration or initial
activation of the oocytes occurs (Tweedell 1961). In this instance, the
primary oocyte proceeds to the mitotic metaphase before the egg is
fertilized and maturation divisions are completed after sperm penetration.
The spawned oocyte is lens-shaped, the shorter axis representing the future
animal vegetal axis (Tweedell 1980). Based on observations of two
Pectinaria species, pectinariids undertake mass spawning of gametes
and have planktotrophic larvae (Wilson 1991). Recently metamorphosed
worms, complete with their sandy tubes, remain in the plankton for a short
time before becoming benthic in habit. Laboratory studies have shown that
larvae of Pectinaria koreni can actively select a suitable
substratum for settlement and that the presence of adults also affects
larval settlement (Desroy, Olivier and Reire1997).
Pectinaria gouldii have a wide range of temperature tolerance, evidenced by the species distribution which stretches from New England to Florida.
Salinties ranges for Pectinaria gouldii have been reported from 6.5 ppt in
the St. Lucie River in 2003 to 38.6 ppt in 2000 from the Florida Bay area
(NOAA NBI undated).
Whitlatch (1974) describes Pectinaria gouldii as an opportunistic
deposit feeding polychaete that has long golden paleae used strictly for
digging and numerous long, ciliated, grooved tentacles which bring sediment
to the mouth. When feeding, the tentacles independently select particles
from all areas near the mouth. The selected particles are brought to the
mouth and rejected particles fall to the bottom of a feeding cavern which
the worm creates while feeding. The selected sediment is either ingested or
transported between the worm's body and tube to the surface of the flat
where it is deposited around the posterior end of the tube. As the worm
slowly moves through the sediment, the small excavated cavity continually
collapses and fills in with sediment from the sides. A previous ecological
study by Gordon (1966) showed that P. gouldi has an annual sediment
working rate of about 600 gm of sediment/worm. Using averages of 10 and 40
worms/m2, he concluded that the sediment of one square meter and 6 cm deep
could be completely reworked in 15 and 6 years, respectively. Because of
the high rates of sediment working, this polychaete could have many effects
upon the benthic environment. Fauchald and Jumars (1979) suggested that in
organic-rich environments the pectinariids will form U-shaped burrows and
remain sessile for long periods and that the motility pattern will be
closely related to the organic content of the surrounding substratum.
Pectinaria gouldii are preyed upon by several fish species (Loveland 1975).
One of the co-inhabitants with the developing oocytes in the coelomic fluid
is a huge snow-white gregarine protozoan (adult vegetative stage) of
Urospora sp. (Brasil 1904). Its developmental stages are usually
encysted and attached to the outer intestinal wall; Urospora can be
confused with oocyte packets when free in the coelomic fluid.
Pectinaria gouldii inhabits soft sediments within both vegetated and
unvegetated sites. It commonly inhabits the shallow subtidal but has also
been collected to depths of 120 m in the Gulf of Mexico during the South
Florida Benthic Survey in 2000 (NOAA NBI undated).
Ice Cream Cone Worms are a prey resource for various predator species, but
details on their relative contribution to estuarine food webs are lacking.
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populations of Pectinaria gouldii (Polychaeta; Pectinariidae) from
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