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Hunt for the black lugworm

1. One of the black lugworms collected. Handling one turns skin yellow as they secrete iodine!
2. Using a bait pump to collect the worms

This week, three members of the department travelled to Whiteford Burrows on Gower to hunt for the black lugworm Arenicola defodiens. This species is less common than the blow lug Arenicola marina that most people may have heard of or seen previously, tends to be larger and, as the name suggests, is darker in appearance (see picture).

Digging for these animals is difficult as their burrows go deep into the sediment so we used a ‘bait pump’ to try and suck them out (see picture)! Success was variable but we did manage to collect a few of each species.

The black lug was first described in 1993 from shores in South Wales including Whiteford Burrows, so this area is considered the ‘type locality’ for the species. As we didn’t have any specimens of the black lug in our collections, we felt it was important to collect a few for future reference and potential research possibilities. Some material was also preserved in 100% ethanol for possible future genetic work.

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