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Idanthyrsus pennatus (Family Sabellariidae)

Feather Tubeworm, Brown Tube Worm



The Feather Tubeworm has an eastern and southern temperate Australian distribution. It ranges from south-eastern Qld, around southern Australia, including NSW, Vic, Tas and SA to south-eastern WA (QLD, NSW, VIC, TAS, SA, WA).


The Feather Tubeworm constructs a sand-grain tube which may be single, or in vast, dense colonies. The tubes of the Feather Tubeworm are irregular in form and very hard in consistency because they are composed of cemented sand grains and shell particles. Inside the tube, the worm has a body that is up to 50 mm long. Its body is divided into four segments. At the tube opening the worm has an operculum crown consisting of a pair of golden-coloured plumes that are called peleae. The outer row resembles palm-leaves, while the inner row is smooth with tapering tips. If the worm is extracted from its tube and examined with a lens, it has three large fin-like feet, called parapodia, each with a row of bristles called setae on the sides of the third, fourth and fifth segments. Bright red coloured gills extend from the upper surface of a long row of about 30 body segments.

Ecology/Way of Life:

The Feather Tubeworm is usually found in single tubes constructed under stones at low water mark on rocky shores around southern Australia. North of Coffs Harbour, there is a tendency to form large, thick communities consisting of a cemented together mass of Idanthyrsus pennatus tubes. This is called worm-coral. Sabellid worms are suspension feeders.

Preferred Image

Interaction with Humans/Threats:

The Feather Tubeworm is widespread and forms dense colonies in the north-eastern part of its range. It probably isn't under threat from human activities.

Other Comments:

Idanthyrsus pennatus, Peters. Idan may come from the Greek word idein, meaning to see, while thyrsus may come from the Greek word thyra, meaning a door, or thyreos, meaning a door-shaped shield. Pennatus comes from the Latin word penna, meaning a feather.

Further Reading:

Bennett, I. (1987). W. J. Dakin's classic study: Australian Seashores: a guide to the temperate shores for the beach-lover, the naturalist, the shore-fisherman and the student. p.192-3, Angus & Robertson.

Davey, K. (1998) A Photographic Guide to Seashore Life of Australia. p.38, New Holland Press, Sydney.

Shepherd, S. A. & Thomas, I. M. (1989). Marine Invertebrates of Southern Australia. Pt. I. p.283-5, South Australian Govt. Printing.


Text, map & photograph by Keith Davey.

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Images and Multi-media:  
Attached Image  
image/jpeg 136372 bytes Feather Tubeworm
Distribution Map  
image/gif 1034 bytes Distribution of Feather Tubeworm

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