Spirobranchus cariniferus

Spirobranchus cariniferus, commonly known as the blue tubeworm or spiny tubeworm, or by its Māori name toke pā, is a species of tube-building polychaete worm endemic to New Zealand.[1][2][3]

Blue tubeworm
Blue tube worm.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Annelida
Class: Polychaeta
Order: Sabellida
Family: Serpulidae
Genus: Spirobranchus
S. cariniferus
Binomial name
Spirobranchus cariniferus
Gray, 1843

This species forms patchy, belt-like colonies of hard, white, triangular tubes, each containing a bright blue worm. These are cemented to the shaded side of rocks in the lower to mid-tidal zone. It may also inhabit hard objects such as dead shells and small stones. When submerged, it puts out a fan of dark-blue tentacles to feed, which it retracts during low tide.[1][2][4]

Individuals living in Dunedin's Otago Harbour are the only polychaetes known to host gregarine parasites. Little is known about their impact on the worms, but it is likely to be a negative one.[5]


Adult worms can grow to 40 mm long and 3 mm wide.[2] The tube is hard, white, and triangular in cross-section with a ridge running along the top. This extends from above the tube opening to form a sharp protective spine. The operculum is a flat, calcareous plate. Its stalk is flat with prolonged wings.[1][2] Its body is a yellow to orange colour towards the posterior and a bright blue at the anterior. Radioles are a bright to dark blue with some white bands. [2]


The blue tubeworm is a surface filter feeder. It feeds on plankton and organic particles, which it filters from the water using its fan of tentacles.[1][6][7]


It is found throughout New Zealand.[1] Its tube layers can be up to 30 cm thick in the cooler climate of the South Island.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e Carson, Sally; Morris, Rod (2017). Collins Field Guide to the New Zealand Seashore. Auckland: HarperCollins Publishers New Zealand. ISBN 978-1775540106.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Spirobranchus cariniferus (Gray, 1843)". www.annelida.net. Retrieved 2019-06-08.
  3. ^ "WoRMS - World Register of Marine Species - Spirobranchus cariniferus (Gray, 1843)". www.marinespecies.org. Retrieved 2019-06-08.
  4. ^ Smith, AM; Henderson, ZE; Kennedy, M; King, TM; Spencer, HG (2012-06-26). "Reef formation versus solitariness in two New Zealand serpulids does not involve cryptic species". Aquatic Biology. 16 (1): 97–103. doi:10.3354/ab00444. ISSN 1864-7782.
  5. ^ Poulin, R.; Randhawa, H. S.; Peoples, R. C. (2012). "Parasites of polychaetes and their impact on host survival in Otago Harbour, New Zealand". Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. 92 (3): 449–455. doi:10.1017/S0025315411000774. ISSN 1469-7769.
  6. ^ "Worm, Blue Tube". www.marinelife.ac.nz. Retrieved 2019-06-08.
  7. ^ Taonga, New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage Te Manatu. "3. – Marine animals without backbones – Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand". teara.govt.nz. Retrieved 2019-06-08.