Palolo Worm Pictures

 
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Palolo Worm Photos Showing This Sea Worm with a Unique Spawning Behavior

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Palolo worms are an annelid sea worm of the Eunicidae family that inhabit tropical and temperate ocean waters worldwide. Their unique spawning behavior first attracted attention in the South Pacific, particularly Samoa, Tonga, Fiji and other Polynesian islands, where swarms of headless palolo worms, of the species Eunice viridis, are taken for food during their annual risings. During a spawn, the rear end of the worm breaks off and undulates to the surface, releasing eggs and sperm in a milky, gelatinous soup. The head end remains attached to its burrow at the ocean floor. Palolo worms in the South Pacific are eaten boiled, fried or raw, or can be baked into palolo loaf with coconut milk and onions. They are often eaten on toast or crackers like caviar.

There are over 14 species of palolo worm, most of which are found in tropical waters, but their larvae disperse widely and the worms are found in most tropical and temperate oceans of the world. The South Pacific island species, Eunice viridis, attracted the earliest attention because missionaries were fascinated by the native populations' use of the worm as a food source, and also of the annual and predictable "risings" to spawn. Eunice viridis swarmings correlate with the lunar cycle, and happen in October, November and December. The worms rise for up to three nights, and only for a few hours at a time, starting at 2:00 a.m. Natives enter the shallow water on foot or in canoe, with nets, cloth, buckets and baskets, and scoop up masses of sticky, mucousy worms.

Indonesian palolo worms spawn in February and March, and their harvest in Lombok, Sumba and Savu is considered an indicator of how successful the year's rice harvest will be. An Indonesian legend, called Putri Nyale, tells of a beautiful princess who was plagued by too many suitors. She threw herself into the sea, and her hair turned into nyale, which is Indonesian for palolo worms.

Palolo worms spend most of their life burrowing into coral rubble or other substrate at shallow depths to 23 meters, where they consume organic matter they encounter. In preparation for spawning, they begin to generate a tail of sorts made up of segments containing eggs and sperm. This section of the worm is called the epitoke. The epitoke features an eyespot, which is able to detect light. When the lunar timing is right, all epitokes are released simultaneously and make their way to the surface. Those that are not quickly taken for consumption burst and create a mucousy soup made up of eggs and sperm. The synchronized timing of the spawn puts eggs and sperm into close proximity to each other, so they can fertilize and develop into larvae. The larvae are formed within a day, and they drift off to settle on the ocean floor and develop into new adult worms. Meanwhile, the atoke, the head and body section of the adult palolo worm, remains attached to the ocean substrate. Each year it generates a new epitoke for the annual spawn. The atoke section of the palolo worm is about 30 cm (12 in) long.

Eunice viridis is also known as Palola viridis. It falls into the Phylum Annelida, Class Polychaeta, Order Aciculata, Family Eunicidae.

 

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Picture of a palolo worm, Palola siciliensis, entire worm with palolo ( epitoke ) attached, female containing eggs, Tutuila Island, American Samoa, Pacific Ocean

Picture #: 009328

Image of palolo worms, Palola siciliensi, in water column after emerging from their burrows on night of the spawning, Tutuila Island, American Samoa, Pacific Ocean

Picture #: 009327

Stock photo of hunters with powerful lights used to attract more palolo worm, Eunice viridis, American Samoa, Pacific

Picture #: 092257

Photo of the palolo worm, Palola siciliensis, entire worm with palolo ( epitoke ) attached; Tutuila Island, American Samoa, Pacific Ocean

Picture #: 009329

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Picture of palolo worms, Palola siciliens, in water column after emerging from their burrows on night of the spawning, Tutuila Island, American Samoa, Pacific Ocean

Picture #: 009330

Image of home made nets to harvest palolo worm, Eunice viridis, American Samoa, Pacific

Picture #: 092256

Stock photo of palolo worm spawning, Eunice viridis, American Samoa, Pacific

Picture #: 092250

Photo of hunting palolo worm, Eunice viridis, American Samoa, Pacific

Picture #: 092258

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Picture of flowers of moso'oi tree, Canaga odorata, believed to indicate palolo worm, Eunice viridis, spawn, American Samoa, Pacific

Picture #: 092260

Image of male palolo worm, Eunice viridis, with epitoke attached, American Samoa, Pacific

Picture #: 092251

Stock photo of female palolo worm in burrow, Eunice viridis, American Samoa, Pacific

Picture #: 092255

Photo of the palolo worm, Palola siciliensis, at night, Pupukea, Oahu, Hawaii, Pacific

Picture #: 092261

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Picture of a microscopic view of palolo worm, Palola siciliensi, epitoke prior to spawning, Eunice viridis, American Samoa, Pacific

Picture #: 092252

Image of plankton, palolo worm, Eunice viridis, larval form, American Samoa, Pacific

Picture #: 092253

Stock photo of palolo worm burrow, Eunice viridis, in dead coral, American Samoa, Pacific

Picture #: 092254

Photo of flowers of moso'oi tree, Canaga odorata, believed to indicate palolo worm, Eunice viridis, spawn, American Samoa, Pacific

Picture #: 092259

 

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