Epifaunal Worm Tubes on Lower Lias Ammonites – Conclusions and References

Table of Contents

  1. Summary & Introduction
  2. Epifaunal Worm Tubes on Lower Lias Ammonites – Results
  3. Epifaunal Worm Tubes on Lower Lias Ammonites – Detailed Observations and interpretation
  4. Epifaunal Worm Tubes on Lower Lias Ammonites – Discussion
  5. Epifaunal Worm Tubes on Lower Lias Ammonites – Conclusions and References

6. Conclusions

1)    Epifaunal serpulids that were themselves overgrown by the ammonites and those that reacted to the growth of the ammonites attached to juvenile, living ammonites. Their growth may be used to interpret the growth of the ammonites. Epifaunal serpulids that are attached to one side of, and grew randomly with respect to the ammonite attached after the death of the ammonite.
2)    The commonest pattern of growth in serpulids that undoubtedly attached to growing live ammonites was attachment in the umbilical seam on one side, later growth onto, and then around, the venter. Reconstructing this ‘standard pattern’ shows that serpulid growth maintained the worm tube aperture at about 6 o’clock with respect to the orientation of the living ammonite. The worm tube aperture was approximately 105-115o behind the ammonite aperture throughout life. The standard pattern is interpreted as orientating the worm’s feeding currents parallel to those generated by the swimming ammonite and thus increasing food-gathering capacity. The mid-ventral position was doubly advantageous as the worm could deploy its branchia on both sides of the ammonite shell.
3)    Growth on ammonites was beneficial to the worms. However, Promicroceras with epifaunal worm tubes died at smaller mean size than unencumbered examples. A significant inverse correlation exists between estimated extra weight of worm tubes and diameter at death of the ammonites. Epifaunal worm tubes were disadvantageous to the ammonites by increasing both weight and drag, and, therefore, were parasitic.
4)    We reject the idea that the worms were stealing the ammonite’s food because the two apertures were too far apart, and because worms filter minute particles unlikely to be generated during ammonite feeding.
5)    Comparisons with living serpulids tend to confirm that Promicroceras swam backwards, reached full size in two to three years, but continued to live for some time after reaching maturity.

Further Information

For those interested in finding out more about modern serpulid worms the following website is a good place to start.


Paul Davis, The Natural History Museum, London provided a copy of Buys’ paper and we thank Dr. Willem Renema, NCB – Naturalis, Leiden, The Netherlands, for a translation. We also thank several local collectors who contributed specimens.


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