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Medusa Worm

Synaptula hydriformis is a tropical, shallow subtidal holothurian belonging to the Family Synaptidae (Sewell et al 1997). The vermiform (worm-like), tentacle-crowned body plan of this species and other synaptids gives the family the misleading common name 'medusa worms'. The S. hydriformis body wall is thin, semi-transparent and elastic. Living specimens are variable in color, ranging from grayish green to reddish brown, with contrasting patches of miliary granules (a type of body wall ossicle) underlying the epidermis. Juveniles tend to be paler and more transparent than adult specimens. Mature adults have a mouth surrounded by 12 pinnate tentacles with a webbed base. This specie of Medusa worm is much less toxic, or noxious than the more colorful and larger ecinoderms. These guys stay small, reaching a maximum length of nearly 5 cm., or nearly 2". They may get as big around as a standard pencil. I have collected these personally from the Florida Keys and they are prevelant in some of my aquariums containing fish. There has never been an issue of toxic releases or fish suffering death from a distasteful nibble. They are excellant diatom and other nuisance algae. Large numbers of protruding, hooked anchor ossicles in the body wall give the animal the ability to adhere to surfaces in a manner similar to Velcro. Individuals feel sticky and are often found clinging to the neoprene surfaces of wet suits and dive booties after wading or snorkeling through a seagrass bed. Most of the crrent stock is about 1"-1.5" long.

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