Sabella spallanzanii

Michael Holloway m.holloway at
Thu Nov 20 18:18:31 EST 1997

Hi all

I have already replied directly to Daniel re ecological effects of S.
spallanzanii, but since there seems to be some interest in this, here is
what I said in the message:

My work focuses on effects of Sabella on recruitment and community
development of sessile assemblages, often known as fouling communities.
The presence of the fanworms influences recruitment of several sessile
species, mainly through physical mechanisms - ie it is the physical
modification of the habitat structure due to the presence of the worms
that cause the changes rather than biological interactions such as
competition etc.  No sessile taxa avoid the worm covered areas altogether,
rather there is a shift in relative abundances of different species
compared to worm free areas.  Because the distribution of fanworms is
patchy, my guess is that this will probably not lead to any drastic
long-term effects on fouling organisms.  I have not done any work on soft
sediment communities.

Another concern that has been raised is that these fanworms may alter the
nitrogen cycle in Port Phillip Bay, leading to eutrophication.  See the
Final Report of the Port Phillip Bay Study for more on this:

CSIRO 1996.  Port Phillip Bay Environmental Study.  Final Report.  CSIRO


Longmore, A, Nicholson, G and Parry, G, 1996.  The effect of Sabella
spallanzanii on nitrogen cycling in Port Phillip Bay, A report to the
Centre for research on Introduced Marine Pests, CSIRO Division of
Fisheries. Victorian Fisheries Research Institute. Internal Report No.

I don't have copies of these references, but as far as I know the work on
nitrogen cycling is fairly preliminary, nevertheless it is cause for
concern.  I don't think anyone knows what effect Sabella will have on the
ecology of Port Phillip Bay will be, but I agree that there is scope for
further research.


Michael Holloway <m.holloway at>

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