Sea worms with hooked jaws seen in S.C.’s coastal waters

Sea worms with hooked jaws seen in S.C.’s coastal waters
Sea worms with hooked jaws are being seen in South Carolina's coastal waters. (Source: S.C. Department of Natural Resources)

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) – Marine worms with hooked jaws are starting to be seen in South Carolina’s coastal waters.

According to information from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, these animals are sometimes called clamworms and ordinarily live on the seafloor. During new and full moons in the spring, they undergo a transformation where their bodies morph into reproductive forms called “epitokes” as they swarm in coastal waters, state wildlife officials said.

“This fascinating phenomenon occurs every year at our marine headquarters in Charleston and is often followed by hungry throngs of fish and birds along the marsh edge,” a post on DNR’s Facebook page stated.

DNR experts warned that people may not want to go swimming with these creatures, as clamworms do have hooked jaws.

“But it’s hard not to appreciate such an unusual coastal sight,” the agency’s Facebook post stated.

EDIT: See our 4/27 post for an update -- these swarms disappear within days, happen when water temperatures are still cool and pose no threat to people. Most folks will never see them, so enjoy these glimpses of an interesting spring event! Nothing says spring on the coast like… a frenzy of marine worms? 🐛🐛🐛 Sometimes called clamworms, these animals that ordinarily live on the seafloor undergo an incredible transformation under new and full moons in spring – their bodies morph into reproductive forms called ‘epitokes’ as they swarm in coastal waters. This fascinating phenomenon occurs every year at our marine headquarters in Charleston and is often followed by hungry throngs of fish and birds along the marsh edge. 🐟🦅 You may not want to go swimming with epitokes, as clamworms do have a set of hooked jaws, but it’s hard not to appreciate such an unusual coastal sight. 🏝️ Have you ever seen an epitoke swarm in spring?

Posted by South Carolina Department of Natural Resources on Wednesday, April 14, 2021

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