This is a common species of Terebellidae in shallow waters among algae but may also be found in mixed bottoms and in soft sediments.


Up to 7 cm long with up to 50 segments.


Live specimens are yellowish orange with two pairs of dichotomous gills with short stems, where the anterior pair are slightly larger. The upper lip anterior to the gills is thick and curving around the mouth. Many eye-spots are visible anterior to the gills on the dorsal side. The thicker anterior thorax region has 15 chaetigerous segments. The dorsal chaetae (notochaetae) are smooth without any denticulation, however this can only be determined in high magnification.


Nicolea zostericola is most similar to the congeneric N. venustula. The latter species have 17–18 chaetigerous segments in the thorax region instead of 15 as in N. zostericola, and the stems of the gills are distinctly longer in N. venustula compared to N. zostericola. Another species with similar set of dichotomous gills is Paramphitrite tetrabranchia. This species however has only 13 chaetigerous segments in its thorax region and has finely denticulated dorsal chaetae instead of smooth as in N. zostericola.

Biology, ecology and behaviour

Nicolea zostericola is hemisessile and construct ephemeral tubes on algae and other substrates. It feeds on detritus with its long tentacles. Reproduction occurs in spring from March to June. The males crawl to the females where sperms are released, later eggs are released from the female. The fertilized eggs are embedded in a secretion cocoon and fixed to either the tube of the females or to algae or other substrates. Larvae develop inside the cocoons and do not have a free-swimming stage.


Nicolea zostericola lives from shallow waters down to 500 meters, in many types of habitat ranging from Zostera, algae, coarse or fine sand, mixed sediments and pure soft sediments.

Recommended citation

Nygren A. Nicolea zostericola (Ørsted, 1844 in Grube, 1860). Downloaded <year-month-day>.