Photograph by Walker Magnum of Anegada Horseshoe Reef

Habitat & Geography

         Hermodice carunculata, or a type of fireworm, can be seen all across the world. The fireworm is found in coral reefs and littoral areas in seas and oceans in tropical and temperate waters (Perez & Gomes 2012; Wolf & Nugues 2013).
 Map of world's seas and oceans by IHO.
        The tropical habitat can be found in many different geographical locations, which tend to be near the Equator. The most common sites for researching the fireworm are the Caribbean Sea (Wolf & Nugues 2012) and the Western Atlantic Ocean (Perez & Gomes 2012). However, H. carunculata can be found off the coast of Brazil (Moreira et al. 2013), Australia (Gleibs & Mebs 1999), and the Mediterranean Sea (Arias et al. 2013). The main habitat requirement for Hermodice carunculata is available coral to eat (Perez & Gomes). The most common location for coral is a coral reef, so most fireworms reside within coral reefs.
        Fireworms are destroying their own habitats by eating coral and carrying around bacteria, which causes damage to coral (Perez & Gomes 2012; Moreira et al. 2013). The fireworm’s overconsumption of coral is causing algae to cover lesions in coral and affecting the overall health of the reef; these issues have caused coral cover to significantly reduce in the Indo-Pacific reefs (Perez & Gomes 2012). In addition, coral usually becomes bleached by various heterotrophic bacteria when temperatures are around 30°C, but recovered; the bacteria also would die when the temperatures reduced during the winter (Sussman et al. 2003). Now, bacteria are able to survive by living inside of Hermodice carunculata during the winter and attack coral in the spring (Moreira et al. 2013). Research is being conduct in effort to prevent the bleaching of coral due to the increased survival of bacteria such as vibrios, specifically Vibrio shiloi (Moreira et al. 2013; Sussman et al. 2003).
Photograph by Nick Hobgood of coral reef.        Many other types of organisms reside in the same coral reef habitat as Hermodice carunculata. Some organisms that are feed on by the fireworm are algae, anemones, zoanthids, and gorgonids, as well as various types of coral including octocorals, scleractinans, and hydrocorals (Perez & Gomes 2012). Also there are the many types of bacteria in the reefs, specifically those that cause the coral bleaching (Sussman et al. 2003). Other various organisms include starfish, fish i.e. Chaetodon, mussels, and crustaceans (Gleibs & Mebs 1999). There are also different species of fireworms such as Eurythoe complanata and Eurythoe laevisetis found in certain environments, mainly the Mediterranean Sea (Arias et al. 2013). Even dinoflagellates can be found in the reef habitat (Gleibs & Mebs 1999). The organisms found in the same habitat as H. carunculata belong to the Bacteria and Eukaryote domains, Archeplastida, Opisthokonta, and Alveolata clades, and various animal phyla such as Annelida, Mollusca, Cnidaria, Echinodermata, and Chordata.

A variety of organisms live in the same coral reefs as Hermodice carunculata such as: Hippocampus bargibanti, Aplysia dactylomela, Pseudoceros bifurcus, Pterois miles, Thenus orientalis, Photeros annecohenae, Stenella frontalis, Holothuria pardalis, Salinispora tropica, and Lysmata amboinensis!

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