Bearded FirewormFire Worm Vs Fire Coral

In this corner, reaching a length of 5-10 centimeters and full of flare is the Bearded Fireworm. In the other corner, standing tall and packing a sting, is Fire Coral. Two dangerous creatures when provoked, these two are ones you have to find out about!

To start this off well talk about the bearded fireworm. Bearded fireworms are often found to be between 5–10 centimetres or 1.9–3.9 in, in length. However, they can reach up to 35 centimetres, or 13.8 in. They are dangerous as they are full of poisonous white bristles on each side, which are flared out when the worm is disturbed.

The bearded fireworm is a very hungry predator and is often found eating something. This Fireworm feeds on dead or decaying organisms and coral polyps, feeding on crustaceans, sea anemones and corals. They can climb up some corals, engulf the tip and strip it of all flesh. The bearded fireworm is a slow moving creature and is not thought of as a threat to humans unless touched by a swimmer being careless. When flared, the bristles can enter into human skin, injecting a powerful neurotoxin and producing intense irritation and a painful burning sensation around the area of contact. The sting can also lead to nausea and dizziness. This feeling lasts up to a few hours. However, a painful tingling will remain to be felt around the area of contact. In a case of contact, applying and removing of adhesive tape will help remove the spines. To reduce the pain try applying isopropanol to the area.

At first, this fire worm looks like a centipede. With its multiple segments, its white silks, its elongated and flat appearance,  its parapodia and gills located on the side of its body. Its colors are varied and range from greenish to yellowish, to grayish, reddish through white with a pearly glow. The body has 60 to 150 identical segments separated from each other by a thin white line and protected by cuticles. Each one has a pair of parapods, structure for locomotion, bunch of stinging white bristles and red or orange gills all in bilateral position. The anterior part of the worm can be recognised by caruncle, or small growths, that have the same color to the gills on the first four segments. The mouth is ventral and is located on the second segment. The head is shown on the first segment and includes the eyes and other sensory organs.

This fire worm is found in many marine living environments such as corals, rocks, mud, sand, Posidonia, on drifting wood. They are encountered throughout the tropical western Atlantic and at Ascension Island in mid-Atlantic. They can be found near ocean reefs and at depths of up to 150m. These worms are also common in the mediterranean sea, in the coastal waters surrounding Cyprus and the Maltese archipelago.

Now we’re going to talk about Fire Coral. Fire coralsgfgb are hydrozoans, and thus have a different type of polyps with different functions than anthozoan corals. The polyps of hydrozoans are extremely small in size and are mostly embedded in the skeleton and connected by a network of small canals. All that is visible on the smooth surface are pores of two sizes. These pores are called gastropores and dactylopores.  Dactylopores have many long fine hairs that stick out from the skeleton. The hairs possess clusters of stinging cells, called nematocysts, that inflict the stings on human skin. These hairs capture prey, which is then covered by gastrozooids, or feeding polyps, situated within the gastropores.

Fire corals have a bright yellow-green and brown skeletal covering. They are widely distributed in tropical and subtropical waters. They appear in small brush-like growths on rocks and coral. Divers often mistake fire coral for seaweed, and contact is common. Upon contact, a sharp pain can be felt that can last from two days to two weeks. The very small nematocysts on fire corals contain tentacles. These tentacles protrude from numerous surface pores, similar to jellyfish stings. Fire corals also have a sharp, calcified external skeleton that can scrape the skin.

Fire corals also gain nutrients via their special symbiotic relationship with algae known as zooxanthellae. The zooxanthellae live inside the tissues of the coral and provide the coral with food. They produce this food through photosynthesis, and because of this, require sunlight. In return, the coral provides the algae with protection and access to the necessary sunlight. Reproduction in fire corals is more complex than other reef-building corals. The polyps reproduce asexually. In doing so, they produce jellyfish-like medusae. These medusae are released into the water from special cup-like structures known as ampullae. The medusae contain the reproductive organs that release eggs and sperm into the water. Fertilized eggs develop into free-swimming larvae that will eventually settle and form new colonies. Fire corals can also reproduce asexually by fragmentation.

Fire coral has several common growth forms; these include plate, branching, and encrusting. Plate growth has a shape similar to that of the smaller non-sheet lettuce corals.Erect, thin sheets, that group together to form a colony. Branching has a structure which branches off, to rounded, finger-like tips.  In encrusting growth, the fire coral forms on the structure of other coral or gorgonian structures.

Fire corals are found on reefs in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic Oceans and the Caribbean Sea. They form large outcrops on projecting parts of the reef where the tidal currents are strong. They are also easy to find on upper reef slopes and in lagoons and occur down to 40 m deep.

Fire corals face the many threats impacting coral reefs globally, including poor land management practices releasing more nutrients, sediment, and pollutants into the oceans and stressing the fragile reef ecosystem. A potential threat is the increase of coral bleaching events, as a result of global climate change. Overfishing has effects that result in the increase of macroalgae that can outcompete and smother corals.  Fishing using destructive methods physically devastates the reef.

Most fire coral species have brittle skeletons that can easily be broken, for example, during storms, or by divers when diving for leisure, or when collecting fish for the aquarium trade.

Fire corals are listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)