4 facts about Christmas tree worms

  1. Despite their name, these colourful creatures are found on coral reefs all year round.
  2. More than just easy on the eye, these marine worms add value to the coral reef ecosystem as protectors of their coral homes. They’ve been seen to obstruct crown-of-thorns starfish to preserve the tiny corallites in their immediate vicinity. 
  3. Similar to a forest of trees, colonies of Christmas tree worms create a calcium carbonate tube that penetrates the corals they inhabit where they can live for up to 40 years.
  4. These iconic creatures had once been considered a single tropical species Spirobranchus giganteus. We now know that this particular species is only found in the Caribbean, with various other species found in tropical reefs globally.


Although invertabrates coommonly reproduce asexually, there are both male and female Christmas tree worms. These 'broadcast spawners' disperse genetic material into the water, in the hope that they will find a match. Once fertilized, larvae take just one day to develop. 

Shop for the Reef this Christmas

Love the Reef? Want to help but can't make it to the Great Barrier Reef yet? We provide many ways for the community to actively contribute to protecting and restoring Australia's natural wonder of the world. Head to our Shop for the Reef page to support the generous businesses that donate a portion of their profits to support the Foundation's Reef projects. 

Video Credit: Biopixel and Undersea Productions