Potentially Misidentified Species:
Identification of any Spirorbis specimens to species level is
difficult, even for trained taxonomists. The literature abounds with
questionable or errant species designations.
II. HABITAT AND DISTRIBUTION
The genus Spirorbis as a whole occurs across a very broad distributional range of
latitudes. For example, specimens identified as S. borealis
have been collected from Iceland south to Florida. Species-specific
distributional information is currently lacking.
Spirorbis occurs on suitable macrophyte habitats and some other hard substrata throughout the IRL.
III. LIFE HISTORY AND POPULATION BIOLOGY
Age, Size, Lifespan:
Most species of Spirorbis have body lengths of around 3 mm.
NOAA NBI collection records from Florida
Bay and adjacent coastal waters reveal field densities of Spirorbis
to vary between 25 and 1,600 individuals/m2, with most records
reporting densities of 100/m2 or less.
A survey of the literature indicates that reproductive strategies differ
somewhat among the members of genus Spirorbis. Much of the genus
appears to exhibit hermaphroditism with some species self-fertilizing and
others cross-fertilizing, and most protectively brood their eggs and larvae
(Bergan 1953, Gee and Williams 1965, Potswald 1968, Ghiselin 1969). Some
species appear to rely on external fertilization while others appear to
utilize internal fertilization (Potswald 1968).
Reproductive seasonality appears variable among species and geographical
locations as well. Surveys by Rothlisberg (1974) indicate La Jolla, CA,
populations of S. marioni produce and brood eggs year-round, and
those by Mook (1983) suggest Indian River Lagoon Spororbis spp.
reproduce throughout the year as well. Seasonal reproductive peaks appear
correlated with water temperature, and periodic peaks in spawning and
larval release may correlate with tidal extremes (Rothlisberg 1974).
utilize internal fertilization (Potswald 1968).
In Spirorbis spirorbis (Daly and Golding 1977, Rice 1978) and possibly other Spirornis species, sperm
storage and delayed fertilization at the time of egg release obviate
the need for synchronized spawning in functional males and females
within the population.
Spirorbis spirillum broods its eggs and larvae until the larvae are
released to the water column for a brief (minutes) period before settling
(Dirnberger 1990, Bell et al. 2001). Potswald (1968) notes that brood
protection within genus Spirorbis occurs either within the parental
tube or within a modified opercular structure. Larvae accumulate
environmental calcium and secrete it at settlement during tube formation
(Nott and Parkes 1975).
Mook (1983) reports the year-round settlement of large numbers of
Spirorbis spp. in the Indian River Lagoon. Mook (1981) noted a
higher incidence of settlement onto experimental tiles that had been
recently scraped clean and suggested these tiles suitably mimicked
naturally-occurring freshly opened primary space that the species is
adapted to rapidly colonize.
IV. PHYSICAL TOLERANCES
The genus as a whole occurs across a very broad range of temperatures.
Information regarding the temperature tolerance of individual species of
Spirorbis is scarce.
Examination of NOAA NBI collection records for Spirorbis in Florida Bay and adjacent coastal
waters reveals most animals were collected from oceanic salinities.
Populations occurring elsewhere in Florida (e.g., in the IRL) persist at
estuarine salinities somewhat lower than these, but there is little
published information indicating the ability of these animals to withstand
extreme salinity fluctuations.
V. COMMUNITY ECOLOGY
Like most serpulid polychaetes, Spirorbis are filter-feeding
animals. They use a crown of stiff tentacles to capture particles from the
Spirorbis and other seagrass and macrtoalgal epibiota is
opportunistically preyed upon by various grazers of marine macrophytes
(Wressing and Booth 2007). The calcareous tube dwellings offers a limited
degree of protection from smaller or less robust predators.
Active preference by settling Spirorbis for surfaces coated by
microbial films has been reported (Walters et al. 1997). DeSilva (1962)
reports preferential settlement of S. tridentatus onto stones with
bio-organic films. Several other authors have reported preferences of
settlement-stage Spirorbis for specific macroalgae (e.g., Stebbing
1972, MacKay and Doyle 1978, Al-Ogily 1985). Fenical (1993) notes that
these associations may be associated exclusively with the macroalgae, with
the presence of bacteria on algal surfaces, or both. The presence of adult
conspecifics has also been shown to increase settlement rates in S.
borealis and S. pagastecheri (Knight-Jones 1951, Walters et al.
Mook (1983) reports that Spirorbis sp. settled onto the tests (body
surface) of the sea squirt Styela plicata during the course of field
experiments conducted in the Indian River Lagoon.
Spirorbis spp. has also been reported as an epibiont on sick and
injured sea turtles in southwest Florida (Thompson 1997).
Bell et al. (2001) describe Spirorbis spirillum as a tube-building
epibiont typically found attached to seagrass blades. Turtle grass
(Thalassia testudinum) and manatee grass (Syringodium
filiforme) are the most heavily colonized of Florida's seagrass
species. Other species of Spirorbis typically attach to fucoid
brown algae, e.g., as reported for S. borealis in the vicinity of
Woods Hole, MA (Schively 1897). Spirorbis also occurs on pelagic
Sargassum macroalgae in the Guld Stream (Weis 1968).
Less commonly, Spirorbis settles onto red mangrove (Rhizophora
mangle) prop roots (Bingham 1992).
Dirnberger (1990) reports that Spirorbis spirillum larvae
disproportionately settle on the bases of growing Thalassia blades
and actively avoid epiphytic algae associated with the distal portion of
the blades. Bell et al. (2001) report that S. spirillum densities
on Thalassia seagrass blades was reduced at grassbed edges compared to the
seagrass bed interior, and suggested hydrodynamic alteration of food supply
or larval recruitment as explanations.
VI. SPECIAL STATUS
Although the overall ecological importance of Spirorbis is
not known, it is a broadly distributed and diverse polychaete
genus. The Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS)
recognizes some two dozen valid species within
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DeSilva PHDH 1962. Experiments on the choice of sub- strate by
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Biology 39: 483-490.
Dirnberger JM. 1990. Benthic determinants of settlement for
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MacKay TFC and Doyle RW. 1978. An ecological genetic analysis
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Mook D. 1983. Responses of common fouling organisms in the
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Potswald HE. 1968. The biology of fertilization and brood
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Schively, MA. 1897. The anatomy and development of Spirorbis
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Shulman JSW. 1968. Fauna associated with pelagic sargassum in
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Stebbing ARD 1972. Preferential settlement of a bryozoan and
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injured sea turtles in southwest Florida during a time of
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