Christmas trees were hard to come by for some families this year. But the ocean was well-stocked, from the tropics to the deep sea, with festive creatures bearing Christmas tree inspired names.
The most famous of these—if a conical, thumbnail-sized marine invertebrate can be called famous—is the Christmas tree worm. These brightly colored tube worms adorn coral reefs across the globe, growing on the surface of living corals. Christmas tree worms are plentiful and easy to spot once you know to look for them. Divers and snorkelers delight in observing the brightly colored, feathery spirals of the worm’s feeding apparatus at close quarters. But if you get within a few inches of one, they vanish into their host coral and wait for the perceived danger to pass (a behavior that James Cameron modeled in the fictional extraterrestrial jungle plants of the film “Avatar”). A Thumbelina-sized diva shopping for a holiday statement might choose these worms as the models for her Christmas tree.
There are also Antipathes dendrochristos aka “the Christmas tree coral” which can be found on the coast of Southern California. Merry Christmas!