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Life in Freshwater

Segmented Worms (Annelida)

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Segmented worm

These are the worms most like earthworms. All of those in freshwater are smaller than those found on land. They are segmented with around 8 bristles or chaetae to each segment of the body. They are not adapted for fast flowing water and are associated with sediment in which they can burrow. Some like the Tubifex worms live in very polluted water and construct tubes. These worms grow up to 4cm in length. The nearest to an earthworm is Lumbriculus variegatus and grows up to 8cm. These two worms contain haemoglobin and so have a reddish colour. The majority of segmented worms living in freshwater will be small up to a maximum of 2cm with distinct bristles and little colour. The Naidid worms are fairly transparent and have a pair of eyes. They breed asexually most of the time with occasional sexes appearing in autumn.

ECOLOGY: The association of the bright red worms with polluted water is linked with the usual lack of oxygen present with pollution. The haemoglobin is a way of absorbing as much oxygen as possible and storing it to pass through the most difficult periods. They feed on detritus and algae at the bottom of ponds, lakes and slow moving water. Reproduction for the larger worms is sexual where the individuals are hermaphrodite.

Tubifex are prolific breeders and may be found in highly polluted water in huge numbers. They stick the head into the mud to feed and the rest of the body protrudes, writhing about. They can consume up to four times the body weight in a day.











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