SCUBA News 269
(ISSN 1476-8011)

SCUBA News (ISSN 1476-8011)
Issue 269 - December 2022

Welcome to SCUBA News. If you celebrate Christmas, I hope you have a good one.

A festive Christmas Tree Worm by John A Anderson/DepositPhotos

What's New at SCUBA Travel?


Do you have sport diver liability insurance?

Does the Malta diver verdict make scuba liability insurance more necessary?

Vanuatu reef

Vibrant diving in Vanuatu

Including the President Coolidge, one of the best wreck dives in the world, but also colourful steep drop-offs, tunnels and caves.

Hawksbill turtle

Relaxing in Barbados

Great for wreck diving, Barbados is also home to the second-largest hawksbill turtle nesting population in the Caribbean.

Humpback whale

Where to Dive in January?

Manta madness in the Maldives to sharks and whales in Mexico.

Reader's recommended dive site: Barracuda Point, Sipadan

"Never missed - barracuda torpedo with jack fish torpedo..."

Read more about Barracuda Point


Tell us about your favourite dive site -

10 Last Minute Liveaboard Deals

From the Red Sea to Raja Ampat, Maldives, Solomon Islands, Truk Lagoon and the Galapagos. All fabulous diving destinations.

  1. Blue Melody, Egypt, Northern Wrecks & Reefs, 23 - 30 Dec 2022 & 30 Dec - 06 Jan 2023 (7 nights), SAVE 30%, Price from USD 805 per trip per person
  2. Sea Serpent Grand, Egypt, Brothers, Daedalus and Elphinstone, 29 Dec 2022 - 05 Jan 2023 (7 nights), Price from USD 1,374 per trip per person
  3. Seven Seas, Indonesia, Raja Ampat, 25 Dec - 06 Jan 2023 (12 nights), SAVE 25%, Price from USD 4,950 per trip per person
    Seven Seas liveaboard
  4. Hammerhead I, Egypt, North route, 25 Feb - 04 Mar (7 nights), SAVE 30%, Price from USD 888 per trip per person
  5. Mariana, the Maldives, South to Thaa OR Ari Atoll Special, 22 - 29 Dec OR 29 Dec - 05 Jan 2023, (7 nights), SAVE up to USD 500 + free nitrox, Price from USD 2,230 per trip per person
  6. Pacific Master, Solomon Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Truk Lagoon, SAVE 30%* 05 - 12 Feb 2023 & 26 Mar - 02 Apr 2023 (7 nights), Price from USD 1,715 per trip per person* 15 - 25 Feb 2023 & 15 - 25 Mar 2023 (10 nights), Price from USD 2,450 per trip per person* 05 - 14 Mar 2023 (9 nights), Price from USD 2,929 per trip per person* *Promotion applicable to bookings made by 31 December 2022
  7. Tiburon Explorer, Ecuador (Galapagos Islands), Western Archipelago, Darwin and Wolf Islands, 27 May - 03 June & 01 - 08 May 2023 (7 nights), SAVE USD 800, Price from USD 6,195 per trip per person
  8. Humboldt Explorer, Ecuador (Galapagos Islands), Central Archipelago, Darwin And Wolf Islands, from 27 Feb 2023 to 03 July (7 nights), SAVE USD 1000, Price from USD 5,195 per trip per person
  9. Red Sea Blue Force 2, Egypt, The North Route, 23 - 31 Dec 2022 & 31 Dec - 07 Jan 2023 (8 nights), SAVE EUR 100, Price from USD 835 per trip per person
  10. RED SEA AGGRESSOR III, Egypt, SAVE 70%, Brothers, Daedalus, Elphinstone
    Until end of December. Price from USD 799 per trip.
    Red Sea liveaboard

The Wonderful World of Christmas Tree Worm

Colourful Christmas tree worms are captivating during any dive, adding a touch of festive magic to coral reefs around the world.

What are Christmas tree worms?

They might look like colourful Christmas trees but they're actually segmented worms. Most of their structure is hidden in tubes within the coral, with only their crowns or Christmas trees protruding. These creatures can live for 40 years!

Christmas Tree Worm  by Tim Nicholson
Christmas Tree Worms by John A Anderson/DepositPhotos

Their scientific name is Spirobranchus giganteus, meaning Giant Spiral-Gills. Although the visible part is only 1.5 cm long, together with its hidden part it is in fact one of the largest worms in its family. The branching crown is important for respiration, hence the "spiral-gills" name.

Christmas Tree Worm  by Tim Nicholson
Photo: Tim Nicholson

Each worm has two crowns or Christmas Trees. The worms come in a myriad of colours, but an individual's two crowns are always the same colour. As well as being used in respiration, the the feathery Christmas Tree gathers food, wafting it down to the worm's mouth.

Christmas Tree Worm, Spirobranchus giganteus
Red Sea Worm by Jill Studholme

On sensing danger, the worm quickly retracts its crown into its tube in the coral and closes the entrance with a trapdoor called an operculum. It will stay down there for about a minute, before re-emerging very slowly to check that the danger has gone.

Christmas Tree Worm by Tim Nicholson
Tim Nicholson

There are both male and female Christmas tree worms and they are choosy; spending their entire life on the same coral - often massive porites. They are important for the health of coral reefs and help protect corals from aggressive sea stars, whilst also stopping algae growing over the coral.

Where do they live?

The great thing about Christmas tree worms is that you can see them around the world on most tropical reefs. They're easy to find and very photogenic, making them great subjects for macro photography. As long as you have the patience to wait and not disturb them into shooting back into their tubes. You might see them down to depths of 30 m.

Christmas Tree Worm by John A Anderson
Close up to Christmas in Bonaire. Photo: John A Anderson/DepositPhotos

Animalia (Kingdom) > Annelida (Phylum) > Polichaeta (Class) > Sedentaria (Subclass) > Sabellidae (Order) > Serpulidae (Family) > Spirobranchus (Genus)

Further Reading
The Wonderful World of Christmas Tree Worms
Coral Reef Guide Red Sea, Lieske and Myers
Red Sea Reef Guide, Helmut Debelius
Age-estimation of the Christmas Tree Worm Spirobranchus giganteus (Pomlychaeta, Serpulidae) Living Buried in the Coral Skeleton from the Coral-growth Band of the Host Coral. Eijiroh Nishi, Moritaka Nishihira 2016

Diving news from around the World

Red Sea Coral

Northern Red Sea reefs resist bleaching
Corals in the northern Red Sea could hold the secrets for reef survival in warming seas.

Cap Roux

French fishing ban pleases both fishers and biodiversity activists
The 450-hectare no-fishing zone was called for by local fishers, who have benefited, as fish now have a safe place to breed and grow to replenish stocks

Florida Quays

70% of Florida's coral reefs are eroding
These findings underscore the need for enhanced management strategies like planting corals to help restore coral structure that has been lost

Plumose anemones. Photo by Tim Nicholson

Ireland's Underwater grand canyon gets protected status under marine conservation move
Lying 280km off the coasts of Ireland, protected Whittard Canyon is home to long-finned pilot whales and numerous fish species.

Sea Urchin. Andrea Izzotti/DepositPhotos

Tech companies work to make fishing more sustainable
Artificial intelligence identifies non-native species that disrupt marine food webs and the fisheries they support.

Sea Urchin. Tim Nicholson

Plastic 'nurdles' stop sea urchins developing properly, study finds
Chemicals that leach out of plastic shown to cause fatal abnormalities, including gut developing outside body

Staghorn coral.Peter and Crystle Clark/DepositPhotos

Transplants can save dying coral reefs, but genetically diverse donors are key
Scientists aiming to save failing reefs by transplanting healthy coral reveal that success lies with genetic diversity - and not a single, coveted "super coral".

SCUBA News is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Unported License. This means we are happy for you to reuse our material for both commercial and non-commercial use as long as you: credit the name of the author, link back to the SCUBA Travel website and say if you have made any changes. Some of the photos though, might be copyright the photographer. If in doubt please get in touch.

Photo credits: Tim Nicholson, Jill Studholme, Kristin Riser, Jianye Sui

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