Eunice aphroditois

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Eunice aphroditois
Eunice aphroditois.jpg
A burrowed Eunice aphroditois
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Annelida
Class: Polychaeta
Order: Eunicida
Family: Eunicidae
Genus: Eunice
E. aphroditois
Binomial name
Eunice aphroditois
Pallas, 1788

Eunice aphroditois is a bristle worm ranging from less than 10 cm (4 in) to 3 m (10 ft) long[1] that inhabits burrows it creates on the ocean floor. It lives mainly in the Atlantic Ocean, but can also be found in the Indo-Pacific ocean area.[2][3] This species is an ambush predator and hunts by burrowing its whole body in soft sediment on the ocean floor and waits until nearby prey is picked up on one of its sensor antennae.[4] It is also equipped with sharp teeth-like structures to strike prey.[5] It displays a wide range of colors from black to purple to metallic on its shell. It lives in typically warmer waters and often hunts either burrowed in a stationary place or among coral reefs.

Eunice aphroditois is also known as the bobbit worm[6][7] or Bobbitt worm.[8] The name is taken from the John and Lorena Bobbitt case.[9] It is sometimes called the sand striker.[8]


Eunice aphroditois has a hard exoskeleton covering its body.[10] The largest known specimen on record reached 299 centimetres (9.81 ft) in length.[1] Despite these great lengths, these worms are quite slim with width of the body only about 1 inch (2.5 cm) across the back. These ambush predators have two eyes and five antennae on their head that are used to sense prey when hunting in soft sediments.[11] The mandibles can be retracted inside of its body and are responsible for striking and stunning its prey and are capable of snapping some in half.[12] Typically, E. aphroditois color ranges from deep purple to black along with metallic color as well. The fourth antenna is always white.[13]


This species has been found in the mainly warmer parts of select bodies of water such as Indonesian and European waters.[12] They are often found prowling among coral reefs due to their ability to blend in and hunt in very tight places because of their slim body.[12] This also goes along with the abundance of marine life that lives in these reefs that they prey on. They also have a relatively wide range of habitats.[14] The species spends most of their time in sandy and muddy sediments as well as around rocks and sponges.[12] Among the greatest depths, the bobbit worm has been recorded to live on the seas floor at ten to ninety-five meters.[7]

Diet and foraging[edit]

By their antennae, the bobbit worm senses the passing prey and snaps down on the prey to drag them into its burrow using its mouth. Some fish exhibit mobbing behavior to reduce predation risk, in which a group of fish will direct jets of water into the bobbit worm's burrow to disorient it.[4] However, any quick strike by the mandibles of the worm can leave the fish stunned while also injecting a certain level of toxins.[15]

Life cycle[edit]

It is believed the lifespan of E. aphroditois is relatively short, ranging from three to five years in age.[16] Their life cycle starts when conceived after spawning. Their eggs are often eaten or destroyed by other organisms. Parents take little or no responsibility for raising their offspring.

Most of the class Polychaeta are benthic sexual reproductive animals[17] and lack external reproductive organs. When mating, female polychaetes produce a pheromone that attract the males to automatically release sperm and when this takes place, in return it then also allows females to give away eggs into the water.[7] They use a technique called "broadcast fertilization" or "spawning", which means the males and females eject their sperm and eggs into the open water to fertilize and colonize within their environments. There is no need for contact between the males and females during this action for fertilization to occur.[7]


  1. ^ a b Kubota, Shin; Tanase, Hidetomo; Uchida, Hiro'omi (March 2009). "An extraordinarily large specimen of the polychaete worm Eunice aphroditois (Pallas) (Order Eunicea) from Shirahama, Wakayama, central Japan". ISSN 1349-2705. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  2. ^ Giangrande, A.; Delos, A. L.; Fraschetti, S.; Musco, L.; Licciano, M.; Terlizzi, A. (2003-12-01). "Polychaete assemblages along a rocky shore on the South Adriatic coast (Mediterranean Sea): patterns of spatial distribution". Marine Biology. 143 (6): 1109–1116. doi:10.1007/s00227-003-1162-0. ISSN 1432-1793.
  3. ^ Fauchald, Kristian. "WoRMS- World Register of Marine Species".
  4. ^ a b Haag-Wackernagel, Daniel; Lachat, Jose (2016-09-12). "Novel mobbing strategies of a fish population against a sessile annelid predator". Scientific Reports. 6: 33187. Bibcode:2016NatSR...633187L. doi:10.1038/srep33187. ISSN 2045-2322. PMC 5018815. PMID 27615670.
  5. ^ Study, Australian Biological Resources (2000). Polychaetes & Allies: The Southern Synthesis. Csiro Publishing. ISBN 9780643065710.
  6. ^ Goslinger, Terrence (1996). Coral Reef Animals of the Indo-Pacific. Sea Challengers. ISBN 0930118219.
  7. ^ a b c d "Eunice aphroditois, bobbit worm". Retrieved 2019-04-16.
  8. ^ a b Cormier, Zoe. "Snapping death worms can hide undetected for years". BBC Earth. Retrieved 14 January 2020.
  9. ^ Debelius, Helmut (2001). Asia Pacific Reef Guide: Malaysia, Indonesia, Palau, Philippines, Tropical Japan, China, Vietnam, Thailand. IKAN. p. 305.
  10. ^ Paiva, Paulo C.; Fauchald, Kristian; Zanol, Joana (2007-06-01). "A phylogenetic analysis of the genus Eunice (Eunicidae, polychaete, Annelida)". Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. 150 (2): 413–434. doi:10.1111/j.1096-3642.2007.00302.x. ISSN 0024-4082.
  11. ^ Glasby, Christopher J.; Read, Geoffrey B. (September 1998). "A chronological review of polychaete taxonomy in New Zealand". Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand. 28 (3): 347–374. doi:10.1080/03014223.1998.9517570. ISSN 0303-6758.
  12. ^ a b c d "Eunice aphroditois (Pallas 1788) - Encyclopedia of Life".
  13. ^ Miura, Tomoyuki (1986-11-29). "Japanese Polychaetes of the Genera Eunice and Euniphysa : Taxonomy and Branchial Distribution Patterns". ISSN 0037-2870. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  14. ^ Fernando, Olivia J. (2011). "EUNICID POLYCHAETES (ANNELIDA) FROM GREAT NICOBAR ISLAND, INDIA: II. ORDER: EUNICIDA" (PDF). Rec. Zool. Surv. India. 111 (Part-4): 29–39.
  15. ^ Osmulski, Paweła; Leyko, Wanda (1986). "Structure, function and physiological role of chironomus haemoglobin". Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part B: Comparative Biochemistry. 85 (4): 701–722. doi:10.1016/0305-0491(86)90166-5.
  16. ^ Holthuis, L.B. (1987). "Résultats des campagnes Musorstom. I et II - Philippines (1976, 1980). Tome 2. In: Mémoires du Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle. Série A, Zoologie. Tome 133. Décembre 1985. Paris. 525 pp. Price: 350 Fr. To be ordered from: Editions du Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Bibliothèque centrale du Muséum, 38 rue Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 75005, Paris". Crustaceana. 53 (3): 320. doi:10.1163/156854087x00466. ISSN 0011-216X.
  17. ^ Gadaleta, M. V.; Matarrese, A.; Tursi, A.; D'Onghia, G.; Giove, A.; Mastrototaro, F. (March 2008). "Benthic diversity of the soft bottoms in a semi-enclosed basin of the Mediterranean Sea". Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. 88 (2): 247–252. doi:10.1017/S0025315408000726. ISSN 1469-7769.