I couldn’t resist taking photographs of the lug worm casts on Whiteford Sands again. There seemed to be more than ever in October. I was struck by the patterns they made. First of all, the patterns within the worm casts themselves – the shape similar to the one you’d get if you had squeezed out the entire contents of a tooth paste tube in one spot – only made of sand. An incredibly long and sinuous unbroken sandy coil. These casts were huge.
The second type of pattern was made by the arrangement of the thousands and thousands of casts and burrow holes on the sea shore – especially where it was covered by a gleaming surface layer of seawater that reflected not only the blue of the sky but the image of the worm casts as well – this made the mounds of sand look twice the size from a distance.
The worm cast patterns could perhaps be considered as naturally-occurring abstract designs. I played around with computer-generated effects to see how they would look. Applying the high solarization effect results in a scene that looks almost moonlit, or a negative image, and for full impact is perhaps best seen with the photograph blown up to highest extent.
The casts were really big. I don’t know whether this was because the worms were taking advantage of sediments that were particularly enriched with microscopic nutrients. Or whether it was the opposite scenario, where a vast quantity of sand had to be quickly passed through the gut of the worm in order to extract the meagre distribution of food particles.
Whatever the case, I don’t think I have seen so many casts at this location midway along the beach before. Mostly I have seen them much further eastwards beyond Whiteford Point. I may be wrong, but I think I remember hearing that the water in the Loughor estuary has become enriched by stormwater and sewage overflow in recent years and this has been suggested as a possible indirect cause for the mass deaths in the cockle populations in the area. I wonder if this is connected to the the apparent population boom in lug worms?
There is more about these marine worms in the earlier post Lug Worms at Whiteford Sands.
Revision of a post first published 2 December 2009
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