Daily Invader

Chesapeake Bay Worms (Oligocheates and Polycheates)

Spionid polychaete Boccardiella ligerica


The spionid polychaete Boccardiella ligerica is hard to identify, which makes it hard to classify.




Boccardiella ligerica is a small polychaete worm, that was described from the coast of Europe in 1898, where it is believed to be native. It belongs to a family of worms (Spionidae) which have two long sticky tentacles that they use to get food from the water or sediment. This worm was reported from San Francisco Bay in 1953, where it became very abundant, and has subsequently been found in Argentina, Puerto Rico, Florida, and Texas. It was first reported in Chesapeake Bay and from the Mullica River New Jersey in the 1990s in benthic samples, but was not found in earlier surveys. We consider it cryptogenic because of taxonomic difficulties. Early descriptions of polychaete species were often vague, and taxonomists often overlooked fine differences in order to fit their specimens to the European descriptions. Subsequent studies of the life history and genetics of polychaetes have shown that many of these widespread species are actually species complexes, or groups of very similar species, differing in subtle ways. This means that some suspected invaders may really be native, while some invaders may be hiding among similar natives. Complete Record 


Crayfish Leech (Cambarincola pamalae)


Crayfish leech Cambarincola pamelae lives on more than just crayfish (pictured above), Blue Crabs have been covered with them.





Cambarincola pamelae is crayfish leech that lives on the Red Swamp Crayfish (Procambarus clarkii), which is also a nonnative species in the Chesapeake. Even though it lives on the crayfish, it isn’t a parasite; it’s an ectosymbiont, meaning an organism that lives on the surface of another organism to the benefit of both. The leech is native to Gulf of Mexico from western Florida to Texas. It has been introduced with the Red Swamp Crayfish and probably occurs wherever the crayfish has been introduced. But crayfish are not the only species that the leeches live on. In 2003 the leeches were found on Blue Crabs (Callinectes sapidus) in the Back River, north of Baltimore, and 12 other locations in the upper Bay. The leech only tolerates low-salinity waters, 0-4 parts per thousand. Like in other places, the leech was probably introduced to Chesapeake Bay with Red Swamp Crayfish that were being cultured on the Eastern Shore of Maryland around 1980, but there have likely been multiple introductions of the crayfish leech into the watershed, including with animals purchased for food, bait, aquarium pets, and biology classes. However, the distribution of the Red Swamp Crayfish and the leech in Chesapeake Bay watershed in not well-known. Complete Record  


Serpulid tubeworm (Ficopomatus enigmaticus)


Serpulid tubeworm (Ficopomatus enigmaticus) was seen in the Chesapeake Bay in 1995.


Serpulid tubeworms or fanworms are small, about 2 inches long, and live inside hard white tubes that they form from calcium carbonate. They are filter feeders that grow on hard surfaces such as rocky shores, docks, or the bottom of boats. They collect food from the water column using their 'fans', called radioles. These radioles have food groves that carry the food to the worm's month. In some areas in Europe large numbers of the worms have formed large reefs. Some of these reefs have had economic consequences because they interfere with human activates, such as blocking water inflow pipes or fouling boats. These worms were discovered in the US in 1921 and in Chesapeake Bay in 1995 and are considered established but rare. They may have arrived on the bottom of a boat, but where they came from and where they are native to is still a mystery. Complete Record 


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