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Temporal range: Permian–0[1] Permian - present
Spirobranchus giganteus (Red and white christmas tree worm).jpg
Spirobranchus giganteus is a species of tubeworm belonging to the Serpulidae family. Note the yellowish cartilaginous operculum extending from the branchial stalk.
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Annelida
Class: Polychaeta
Order: Sabellida
Family: Serpulidae
Rafinesque, 1815[2]

see text.

The Serpulidae are a family of sessile, tube-building annelid worms in the class Polychaeta. The members of this family differ from other sabellid tube worms in that they have a specialized operculum that blocks the entrance of their tubes when they withdraw into the tubes. In addition, serpulids secrete tubes of calcium carbonate. Serpulids are the most important biomineralizers among annelids. About 300 species in the family Serpulidae are known, all but one [1] of which live in saline waters. The earliest serpulids are known from the Permian (Wordian to late Permian).[1]

The blood of most species of serpulid and sabellid worms contains the oxygen-binding pigment chlorocruorin. This is used to transport oxygen to the tissues. It has an affinity for carbon monoxide which is 570 times as strong as that of the haemoglobin found in human blood.[3]

Empty serpulid shells can sometimes be confused with the shells of a family of marine gastropod mollusks, the Vermetidae or worm snails. The most obvious difference is that serpulid shells are dull inside, whereas the molluscan vermetid shells are shiny inside.

Selected genera[edit]

Pecten sp. with serpulid worm encrusters; Duck Harbor Beach on Cape Cod Bay, Wellfleet, Massachusetts.


  1. ^ a b Rossana Sanfilippo; Antonietta Rosso; Agatino Reitano; Gianni Insacco (2017). "First record of sabellid and serpulid polychaetes from the Permian of Sicily". Acta Palaeontologica Polonica. 62 (1): 25–38. doi:10.4202/app.00288.2016.
  2. ^ Read G, Fauchald K, eds. (2019). "Serpulidae Rafinesque, 1815". World Polychaeta database. World Register of Marine Species. Retrieved September 7, 2019.
  3. ^ Cowles, David (2006). "Serpula vermicularis Linnaeus, 1767". Invertebrates of the Salish Sea. Rosario Beach Marine Laboratory at Walla Walla University. Archived from the original on 2011-10-02. Retrieved 2011-10-31. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ Read, G.; Fauchald, K., eds. (2014). "Filograna Berkeley, 1835". World Polychaeta database. Retrieved 2015-02-22 – via World Register of Marine Species.
  5. ^ Prentiss, N.K.; Vasileiadou, K.; Faulwetter, S.; et al. (2014). "A new genus and species of Serpulidae (Annelida, Polychaeta, Sabellida) from the Caribbean Sea" (PDF). Zootaxa. 3900 (2): 204–222. doi:10.11646/zootaxa.3900.2.2. PMC 4340580. PMID 25543733.
  • Abbott, R. Tucker (1986). Seashells of North America. St. Martin's Press.
  • ten Hove, H.A.; van den Hurk, P. (1993). "A review of recent and fossil serpulid 'reefs'; actuopalaeontology and the 'Upper Malm' serpulid limestones in NW Germany". Geologie en Mijnbouw. 72 (1): 23–67.
  • Ruppert, Edward E.; Fox, Richard S. & Barnes, Robert D. (2004). Invertebrate Zoology: A Functional Evolutionary Approach (7th ed.). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole – Thomson Learning Inc. ISBN 0-03-025982-7.