Merry Christmas from the Christmas Tree Worm!

Written by: Lisa Stelzner

Primary Source: Daily Dose of Science Blog

Merry Christmas!  I thought today’s post deserved a Christmas theme, so I will write about the Christmas Tree Worm.
Photo credit: By Nhobgood Nick Hobgood (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (
Christmas tree worms (Spirobranchus giganteus) live in coral reefs worldwide, and live in tubes. Their pretty tree-shape is made of appendages they use to respire and feed on plankton and suspended food particles.  Disturbances cause them to retreat into their tubes, which they attach to coral.  The worms, like many other marine invertebrates, breed by releasing sperm and eggs into the surrounding seawater.  Fertilized eggs will develop into larvae, which then form their burrows on coral.

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Lisa Stelzner
I'm a plant biology PhD student studying monarch butterflies in Michigan, but I'm interested in lots of other types of science, too. I am interested in how breeding monarch butterflies choose their habitat based on floral species richness and abundance. Few studies have been conducted on optimal foraging theory when it involves an organism searching for two different kinds of resources, and butterflies are an ideal study system to investigate this, since many species are ovipositing specialists and only lay eggs on one species of hostplant, but are feeding generalists and nectar from a broad variety of flowering forbs.