::WARNING:: This post is potentially full of incorrect information.
On the last Meet the Beach I left off promising to share what I consider the COOLEST thing I’ve ever found on a Florida beach. Here it is! I was wandering the beach one evening after a couple of days of NE winds and spotted a common whelk washed up on the shoreline. As I bent down to pick it up I noticed something I believe to be quite uncommon in this area. A tiny worm had attached itself and built a home on the whelk. He was slowly moving in and out of his house as I picked the shell up and seemed as interested in checking me out as I was in checking him out.
I took a few pictures of him and then returned him to the sea with well wishes that he and his shell would find whatever habitat it was that they needed to carry on. I sent one of the pictures over to David’s sister, Emily, who’s work has led to knowing and befriending lots of biologists. She was kind enough to forward it along, but without better pictures and more information, the response that came back was more of an educated “best guess” than a “I can’t believe you found a …”
The best guess was that this little guy was a Phragmatopoma caudata, also known as Honeycomb worm from the family Sabellariid. These are the worms that make up Bathtub Reef in Stuart, Fl. They use special sensory organs around their mouth to find a suitable location to build their home and somehow, through the magic of nature, a thin mucous layer forms around them to which various small particles of minerals, diatom frustules, sponge spicules are then implanted, eventually building the honeycomb, tube like structure they call home. [floridaocean.org]
As stated, this is a best guess at identification and I have no idea how often they are found on NE Florida area beaches, but if you ever come across one, there’s no denying how cute they are!
P.S. Honeycomb worm is the coolest thing I’ve ever come across in NE Florida, but if you’re curious as to the COOLEST, CUTEST thing I’ve ever come across anywhere, that would be micromelo undata, a species of sea snail. Their Atlantic habitat range stretches from South America to Florida, but I spotted this guy in Puerto Rico a few months ago. He was no bigger than my pinkie nail and was hanging out on some exposed rocks at Tres Palmas.