Strandlines & worm tubes at Studland in April

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Strandline photograph: Strandline with thousands of marine worm tubes at Studland Bay in April on the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site (P1080879aBlog1)

Strandlines, again! So far, in the previous two posts I have talked about the way that strandlines are potentially being formed with every new tide. They can be wet and fresh – or dry and partially buried. They can be ephemeral, disappearing on the next tide – or semi-permanent, becoming gradually buried by the sand. You can have a series of strandlines at different levels of the beach.

I have briefly touched on strandlines as an important food resource for other organisms both large and small. They can also provide shelter for animals like small mammals. They are significant parts of the environment because their nutrients enter the carbon and nitrogen cycles to sustain future generations of wildlife. They are potentially a vital part of the way sediment shores are stabilised.

In other words, strandlines are not just piles of rubbish – they are important parts of the ecosystem. They add to biodiversity and help maintain nutrient stores. Physically, their incorporation into sediment shores can preserve beach structures and help prevent erosion.

About the strandline photographs in this post, these were all taken one day in April. Hundreds of thousands of tiny tubes, constructed with a mucus lining covered with sand grains and shell fragments, were deposited in piles on the strandline. These are tubes made and occupied by marine polychaete worms in the wet sand at the lowest shore levels, normally underwater.  

Two main species are represented here: the Sand Mason worm, Lanice conchilega (Pallas), and Owenia fusiformis della Chiaje.  

Sand mason worm tube picture: Tube of a living Sand Mason Worm, Lanice conchilega (Pallas) in shallow water at low tide on Studland Beach, Dorset, UK, on the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site (P1020672aBlog2)

You can usually distinguish between the two tubes because the one built by the Sand Mason worm has a fringe around its opening – while Lanice tends to have a longer, softer tube with larger pieces of debris attached. In the one illustrated at the bottom of this post there are small pieces of various kinds of mollusc shell, fragments of barnacle shells and large grains of sand.

Tube of sand grains: Tube of the Sand Mason marine worm, Lanice conchilega (Pallas) from Studland Bay, Dorset, UK - part of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site (P1090801aBlog3) 

Marine worm tube image: Tube of Owenia fusiformis delle Chiaje from the strandline at Studland Bay, Dorset, UK - part of the Jurassic Coast (P1050846aBlog4)

Revision of a post first published 9 June 2009


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8 Replies to “Strandlines & worm tubes at Studland in April”

  1. Hi, Mobile Paddler
    I’m glad you found what you were looking for on my blog. I can see from your own blog that you have the advantage of viewing many lovely wildlife subjects from a unique perspective in your kayak.


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