Bootlace and ribbon worms - Nemertea


Brown animal: Notospermus tricuspidatus (Quoy & Gaimard). Up to 300mm long unstretched, its long sticky proboscis is often shot out when the worm is picked up. It can stretch tp 3 or 4 meters when picked up.
Orange animal: Gorgonorhynchus repens. Much smaller, (50mm unstretched), this species is unusual in having a proboscis consisting of many tubes. When the proboscis is everted, it looks very like a terebellid polychaete worm.
Both found at Long Reef, Sydney, NSW, Australia. May 1995. Photos: Bill Rudman.

Nemertine worms are also called boot-lace or ribbon worms because of their shape. They are voracious carnivores usually eating living prey but also able to feed on dead fragments. They feed by shooting out a very long thin proboscis which is either sticky or has poisonous hooks. The prey is entangled in the proboscis and drawn towards the worm's mouth. The body wall musculature of nemerteans is not well developed and when picked up they can stretch to many times their original length.

See Dong Bum Koh's message #13659 showing Aplysia parvula being eaten by the nemertean Lineus fuscoviridis, and in message #17404, Atagema intecta being eaten by the same nemertean..

Authorship details
Rudman, W.B., 2002 (July 6) Bootlace and ribbon worms - Nemertea. [In] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from

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