Social Featherduster Identification

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Social featherdusters are tube worms, which means that each animal lives in a narrow tube that is smaller in diameter than a common straw. Look for social featherdusters in coral heads and rubble areas with help from a scuba diving instructor in this free video on fish identification and marine life.

Part of the Video Series: Caribbean Fish
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Video Transcript

The marine creature we're going to identify now is the social featherduster. Social featherdusters are tube worms, which means that each animal lives in a narrow tube, usually a little smaller in diameter than a common soda straw. They can retract into these tubes when they're threatened. They're found in clusters usually consisting of a dozen or two individuals. They're found in coral heads, in rubble areas near reefs, and on pilings and docks, and on wrecks. They are relatively shallow water-dwelling creatures living in depths from 15 feet to 60 feet. Social featherdusters, as with all tube worms, feed by extending their mouths and radials out of their tubes. The radials are the colorful arms that encircle the mouth and are responsible for catching the animal's food, and also function as their gills. On the social featherduster, the radials look like tiny feathers. So the animals look like a little featherduster you could use to dust the knick-knacks in your home, when they're extended. They feed on plankton that drifts by in the water column. When extended, the radials will have a diameter of anywhere from about three-quarters of an inch to and inch and a quarter. The overall length of the social featherdusters can range from an inch to several inches. Social featherdusters are common in the waters off Florida, the Bahamas, and most of the Caribbean. The color of the radials can vary in different parts of its range, but generally consistent in each geographic area. For example, around the Turks and Caicos, they are usually a violet color with white tips. But around Cozumel, they are usually white. And in Belize, a light brown color. There can be some banding of color on the radials. And the color is generally more intense towards the center where their mouth is located. Their tubes are usually cream to light tan-colored. When social featherdusters feel a disturbance in the water column, such as the approach of a diver or a fish, they quickly retract into their tubes. But if you wait patiently and motionlessly, they will slowly reemerge, unfurling their radials as they do. Social featherdusters reproduce asexually, which is a good thing since they are unable to move from the substrata to which they are attached. That's the social featherduster.

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