Hook-jawed sea worms swarm South Carolina coastline

Hook-jawed sea worms swarm South Carolina coast as officials reassure swimmers ‘there’s nothing to fear’

Department of Natural Resources cautions that swarm of marine worms is ‘not something to fear’ after media outlets warn of worm ‘frenzy’

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Tuesday 27 April 2021 22:34

The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources has said they are “disappointed that some national media outlets have portrayed a normal, natural phenomenon as something frightening”, after posting a video showing a swarm of hook-jawed sea worms in the waters off the coast of the state earlier this month.

The department posted a video of the worms on 14 April on Facebook, writing in the description: “You may not want to go swimming with epitokes, as clamworms do have a set of hooked jaws”, prompting media outlets to warn of a “frenzy” of “predatory” worms.

“The truth is that there’s nothing to fear from marine worms in South Carolina. Spawning swarms are short-lived, lasting only a couple days, and most visitors to the coast will never see one,” the department clarified in a social media post on Tuesday.

Creating the initial frenzy of news reports, the department wrote earlier this month that “clamworms” are “animals that ordinarily live on the seafloor” but who goes through a transformation in the spring during which “their bodies morph into reproductive forms called ‘epitokes’ as they swarm in coastal waters”.

They added that the process is “often followed by hungry throngs of fish and birds along the marsh edge”.

In the clarifying post on Tuesday, the department said “marine worms are an important part of the food web” as they feed fish and “many other marine animals,” and can provide insights into the health of the oceans.

“They’re tiny, not interested in harming humans, and unlikely to be seen at the beach. Once they reproduce, they die and the life cycle starts anew,” they stated and added that “the spawning of clamworms in the spring” is something that “makes life along the coast so interesting” and is “not something to fear”.

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