Bearded Fireworm
Hermodice carunculata Photograph taken by Travis Barth @ Twilight Zone
Konica Minolta Dimage X60; Macro Setting

"Beauty and the beast" is perhaps the best description for these striking predators.  With thousands of long, poisonous bristles for defense, and a voracious appetite for soft and hard corals, anemones, and small crustaceans, the Bearded Fireworm makes up for it's size with attitude. In captivity, these creatures have been known to thrive on alternative foods such as squid, clam, shrimp, krill, mussel, etc.

The Bearded Fireworm is abundant on reefs, beneath stones in rocky or seagrass areas, and on some muddy bottoms. It has also been found at or near the surface in flotsam and occurs to at least 200 feet. (60 meters) Bearded fireworms can be found throughout the tropical western Atlantic and at Ascension Island in mid-Atlantic. Measuring 2-4 inches on average, these worms can achieve lengths of up to 13 inches.

When the Bearded Fireworms come to the surface to mate, the females start to emit a greenish phosphorescent glow. This attracts the males, which dart towards the females, emitting flashing lights at the same time. As the different sexes approach each other, the sex cells are shed.

The Saba Marine Park Rules of not touching the reef or it's inhabitants is, in this case, meant to protect you The spines of the Bearded Fireworm are readily shed as they penetrate your skin, and cause intense irritation around the area of contact. Adhesive tape can be used to remove some of the bristles, and rubbing alcohol may alleviate the pain.