Scientific name Hermodice Carunculata, the Bearded Fireworms grow to a size of 5cm to 10cm but can reach up to 35cm in length. Their white bristles (beard) while beautiful are also poisonous which flare out when disturbed! Goes without saying that we neither poke or prod with our fingers while diving! They are the largest and most primitive group of annelids of which the great majority are marine species. This lowly worm is a slow moving creature as one would expect and is not considered a threat unless touched. The toxin it carries in its bristles is a potent neurotoxin which causes severe irritation and painful burning sensation if it penetrates the skin! May lead to nausea and dizziness lasting a few hours in some cases. Use adhesive tape to remove spines in case of an accidental contact applying alcohol to the area to reduce pain.
A reef dweller usually under rocks or sometimes on muddy bottoms rarely found deeper than 150m. Very common in Cypriot waters but also Malta and the Mediterranean to a lesser extent! Check under rocky outcrops and also near the surface on flotsam.
Voracious eaters the Bearded Fireworms feed on soft and hard coral, anemones and small crustaceans. While feeding on coral they engulf the last few centimeters or the branches removing coral tissue right off the skeleton leaving behind characteristic coral white tips. This process typically takes 5-10mins.
When they surface to mate the females of the species begin to emit a green phosphorescent flow attracting the males of the species who dart towards the females emmitting flashing lights at the same time. As they approach each other the sex cells are shed, combine and create a new generation of these beautiful creatures.