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The Seashore

Ribbon or Nemertine worms

Bootlace Worm (Lineus longisimus)

Bootlace Worm (Lineus longisimus)

Lineus is just one of many nemertine or Ribbon Worm but this species is quite distinctive. It is a very dark brown, almost purple and very flattened worm. It is extremely long, extending to over 10 metres although most of the time it is coiled randomly around rocks, stones and seaweed. The body of ribbon worms are not segmented and the eyes are an important feature for the correct identification of the species. They are not true worms but belong to a phylum group called the nemertini.

Ribbon Worms have a large proboscis which they extend. They are carnivorous and use this to feed on polychaete worms. It catches them with the extended proboscis, twisting it around their bodies. Then by contracting the proboscis they pull the worm inside their body. The flattened body allows it to push its way through tiny holes and crevices until the huge length of the body is wrapped around a large area of seashore. They have separate sexes and often they will carry out internal fertilisation with the eggs been retained until they hatch. They can often break and if they do any parts are quickly regenerated including the proboscis.

Ribbon Worms are common species living in sand and mud on depositing seashores although the Bootlace Worm is more at home under rocks and stones. Mainly lower shore region. Widespread through the European coastline including the Mediterranean


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