Sand mason worm

Sand mason worm ©Nigel Phillips

Sand mason worm underwater

Sand mason worm ©Devon WT

Sand Mason Worm

Scientific name: Lanice conchilega
This worm builds its own home out of bits of shell and sand. It can be spotted on the shore all around the UK.

Species information

Statistics

Worm, length: 30cm, Tube, length: 45cm but only 5cm above the seabed

Conservation status

Common

When to see

January to December

About

Sand Mason Worms are exactly as advertised - they use grains of sand and fragments of shell to build a protective tube to live in. The worm and most of the tube are buried in the sand, with just the top of the tube sticking out. The tops of the tubes can be crowned with an ornate branched structure built of sand and shell. This structure is used for catching food and looks a bit like a mini sand tree. The tops of the tubes can be spotted on beaches at low tide. When the tide comes in, they feed using a pretty crown of tentacles to catch passing particles or search for particles on the surrounding seabed. They can be found alone or in dense beds of thousands of individuals.

How to identify

The worm and tube are long but buried in the sand save for a small section which sticks out the top. You can see the tops of the tubes - sometimes with their tree-like branches - at low tide on sandy beaches. Look for thin tubes made of sand and shell fragments, sometimes solitary but often in dense beds.

Distribution

Found around all UK coasts.

Did you know?

Sand Mason Worms are a favourite food of flatfish and wading birds.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts are working with sea users, scientists, politicians and local people towards a vision of 'Living Seas', where marine wildlife thrives. Do your bit for our Living Seas by supporting your local Wildlife Trust or checking out our Action Pages.