Invasion History

First Non-native North American Tidal Record: 1997
First Non-native West Coast Tidal Record:
First Non-native East/Gulf Coast Tidal Record: 1997

General Invasion History:

Ficopomatus uschakovi was first described by Pillai, from Sri Lanka in 1960. Many tubeworm specimens from India, Indonesia, New Guinea, and Queensland, which were originally identified as F. enigmaticus were re-identified as F. uschakovi by ten Hove and Weerdenberg (1978). The Indo-Pacific range of this worm includes the Solomon Islands and Queensland, Australia in the east, and the Philippines, Brunei, and India, to the west. Established populations in West Africa, from Ivory Coast to Nigeria, in the Gulf of Guinea (Zabi and Le Loeuff1993; ten Hove and Weerdenberg 1978) are probably introduced. Populations have recently been found on the Atlantic coast of Florida, the Gulf of Mexico, Venezuela, and Brazil (de Assis et al. 2009; Liñero-Arana and Díaz-Díaz 2012; US National Museum of Natural History 2012; Ruiz et al., unpublished data). On the Pacific Coast, this tubeworm has been found in Panama Bay (Ruiz et al., unpublished data) and in Chiapas, Mexico (Bastida-Zavala and García-Madrigal 2012). Ficopomatus uschakovi is tolerant of a wide range of salinities, and is easily transported in hull fouling and ballast water (ten hove and Weerdenburg 1978).

North American Invasion History:

Invasion History on the East Coast:

In 2002, F. uschakovi was found on fouling plates in Jacksonville, Florida and in 2004, it was found near the port of Miami in Biscayne Bay (Ruiz et al., unpublished data). The number of settled worms in both ports was indicative of established populations.

Invasion History on the Gulf Coast:

In 1997, two specimens of F. uschakovi were found in the Pascagoula River, Mississippi (USNM 186523, US National Museum of Natural History 2008). In 2000-2002, specimens were found on plates in several locations in Galveston and Corpus Christi Bays, Texas (Ruiz et al., unpublished data).

Invasion History Elsewhere in the World:

Ficopomatus uschakovi, on biogeographical grounds, appears to have been introduced to West Africa, from the Indo-Pacific. The oldest specimens that we know of from the Atlantic were collected from Lagos, Nigeria in 1954 (ten Hove and Weerdenberg 1978). This tubeworm was abundant in the port areas of the Lagos Lagoon, on rocks, mangroves, and oyster shells (Zabi and Le Loeuff 1993). It has also been collected in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, and Cotonou, Benin (ten Hove and Weerdenberg 1978). In South America, it was found among mangroves near João Pessoa, in Paraiba state, Brazil, in a tidal creek of the Sanhauá River in 2004 (de Assis et al. 2008), and in Caño Morocoto, in the Orinocco delta, Venezuela, in 2008, attached to large boulders (Liñero-Arana and Díaz-Díaz 2012). Ficopomatus uschakovi has also been collected in Panama Bay, near the mouth of the Panama Canal (2008, Ruiz et al., unpublished data), and in La Encrucijada Biosphere Reserve, Chiapas, Mexico (Bastida-Zavala and García-Madrigal 2012). A few specimens were collected in the Netherlands, from tropical wood which was cast up on the shore in 1974. This wood was presumably brought from the tropics in the lumber trade (ten Hove and Weerdenberg 1978).


Ficopomatus uschakovi secretes a calcareous tube, as do other serpulid polychaetes. Serpulids have a feathery crown of modified prostomial palps, called radioles (the prostomium is the first segment, projecting above the mouth). The radioles can be folded and withdrawn into the tube. One of the radioles is modified to form an operculum, which acts as a plug when the animal contracts. The peristomium (segment behind the mouth) is folded back to form a collar, which bears uniramous parapodia, with a distinctive set of collar chaetae, with spines or serrations. The collar is the first of seven thoracic chaeta-bearing segments (chaetigers). The subsequent segments have biramous parapodia. The dorsal branch of the parapodium is called the notopodium; the ventral is the neuropodium. Chaetae in the two branches and along the body can vary greatly in their morphology (Description from: ten Hove and Weerdenburg 1978; Barnes 1983).

The tube of F. uschakovi is bright white, but older parts may be covered by a brown layer, possibly algae. The tube is semicircular in cross-section, and often has more or less prominent irregularly placed flaring rings, indicating the previous positions of the peristome. The tubes usually have three prominent longitudinal keels, which are less conspicuous towards the mouths of the tubes. The tubes are about 1 mm in diameter. The branchial (gill) radioles arise from paired lobes. There are about 8 (5-10) on the left and 9 (6-11) on the right, forming two semicircles, on either side of the mouth. The feathery filaments of the branchiae (pinnulae) are larger towards the ends of the radioles. The operculum is roughly globular with a concave distal surface, and with circular rows of outwardly curved terminal spines. The gills and operculum account for about 1/4 of the length of the worm. The peduncle of the operculum is circular to subtriangular in cross-section. The thorax consists of 7 segments. The collar (first thoracic segment) is high and not lobed, with a smooth edge, and is continuous with the thoracic membranes, which are fused dorsally. There are two kinds of collar chaetae, thicker coarsely serrated chaetae, and hair-like (limbate). The subsequent thoracic segments bear short, rasplike chaetae, called uncinae, and limbate chaetae. The abdomen has about 40 segments (18-46, n=7, ten Hove and Weerdenburg 1978). The overall length of the worm reaches about 10 mm, but some populations do not exceed 5 mm (ten Hove and Weerdenberg 1978). Specimens collected in Venezuela were larger, 7-16 mm, with 59-112 abdominal segments (Liñero-Arana et al. 2012). Zabi and Le Loeuff (1993) reported finding tubes 20-30 mm long in West Africa. The largest specimens reported by Hill (1967, as Mercierella enigmatica) reached 40 mm. The radioles and gill filaments may be tinged with orange, while the gill filaments are often barred with brown. This worm may grow in colonies consisting of large masses of brown and white worm tubes. It is typical found in estuaries, particularly in brackish waters. (Description from: ten Hove and Weerdenberg 1978; Zabi and Le Loeuff 1993; de Assis et al. 2008; Liñero-Arana and Diaz-Diaz 2012).


Taxonomic Tree

Kingdom:   Animalia
Phylum:   Annelida
Class:   Polychaeta
Subclass:   Palpata
Order:   Canalipalpata
Suborder:   Sabellida
Family:   Serpulidae
SubFamily:   Serpulinae
Genus:   Ficopomatus
Species:   uschakovi


Mercierella enigmatica (Fauvel, 1931)
Neopomatus similis (Pillai, 1960)
Neopomatus similis var. rugosus (None, None)
Neopomatus uschakovi (Pillai, 1960)
Neopomatus uschakovi var. lingaynensis (Pillai, 1960)
Neopomatus ushakovi (Hartmann-Schröder, 1971)

Potentially Misidentified Species

Ficopomatus enigmaticus

Ficopomatus macrodon

Ficopomatus miamenis




Life History – The serpulid polychaete, Ficopomatus uschakovi, feeds by extending its feathery gills and trapping plankton in the water column, which are transported by cilia to the mouth. The sexes are mostly separate, as in most serpulids, although some young hermaphrodites have been seen in F. enigmaticus. Spawning occurred during the dry season December-February, in the Lagos Lagoon, Nigeria. Eggs and sperm are released into the water column. The larvae are planktotrophic, and are reported to spend about a week in the plankton. (Information from: Zabi and Le Loeuff1993; de Assis et al. 2008; Liñero-Arana and Díaz-Díaz 2012).

Ecology – Adult F. uschakovi can tolerate a wide range of salinities, 0-33 PSU (Zabi and Le Loeuf 1993), but its temperature tolerance is unknown. Based on its occurrence in the southeastern US, it appears to be capable of tolerating cool winters. It is not clear whether F. uschakovi forms extensive reefs like F. enigmaticus does. Field reports describe 'conglomerates' (Brazil, de Assis et al al. 2008) or 'encrusting colonies' (Nigeria, Zabi and Le Loeuf 1993), on mangrove roots, but do not mention extensive reefs. Like other serpulid polychaetes, F. uschakovi, secretes a calcareous tube and can be found on hard surfaces such as rocks, pilings, floats, shells, wood, and mangroves.


Phytoplankton, Detritus

Trophic Status:

Suspension Feeder



General HabitatCoarse Woody DebrisNone
General HabitatMarinas & DocksNone
General HabitatMangrovesNone
General HabitatOyster ReefNone
Salinity RangeMesohaline5-18 PSU
Salinity RangePolyhaline18-30 PSU
Salinity RangeEuhaline30-40 PSU
Salinity RangeOligohaline0.5-5 PSU
Salinity RangeLimnetic0-0.5 PSU
Tidal RangeSubtidalNone
Vertical HabitatEpibenthicNone

Life History

Tolerances and Life History Parameters

Minimum Salinity (‰)0Field and laboratory, Lagoon of Lagos, Nigeria (Zabi and LeLoeuff 1991)
Maximum Salinity (‰)33Field and laboratory, Lagoon of Lagos, Nigeria (Zabi and LeLoeuff 1991, highest tested?)
Minimum Reproductive Salinity3Field and laboratory, Lagoon of Lagos, Nigeria (Zabi and LeLoeuff 1991)
Maximum Reproductive Salinity33Field and laboratory, Lagoon of Lagos, Nigeria((Zabi and LeLoeuff 1991, highest tested?)
Minimum Duration7 'une semaine'('a week) in the plankton (Zabi and LeLoeuff 1991)
Maximum Length (mm)40From Lagos Lagoon, Nigeria (1967, as Merceriella enigmatica), but maximum sizes of other populations are 5-17 mm (ten Hove and Weerdenburg 1978; Liñero-Arana et al. 2012)
Broad Temperature RangeNoneWarm temperate-Tropical
Broad Salinity RangeNoneOligohaline-Euhaline

General Impacts

The serpulid tubeworm Ficopomatus uschakovi has been introduced to West Africa, Brazil, Venezuela, and the southeastern US. (Zabi and Le Loeuff 1993; de Assis et al. 2008; Liñero-Arana and Díaz-Díaz 2012; Ruiz et al., unpublished data). This species has the potential to foul boat hulls, navigational structures, and power plants. While abundant local populations have been reported in Nigeria and Brazil, no ecological or economic impacts have been described.

Regional Distribution Map

Bioregion Region Name Year Invasion Status Population Status
CAR-I Northern Yucatan, Gulf of Mexico, Florida Straits, to Middle Eastern Florida 1997 Def Estab
CIO-II None 0 Native Estab
EAS-I None 0 Native Estab
EAS-VII None 0 Native Estab
EAS-II None 0 Native Estab
EAS-IV None 0 Native Estab
EAS-III None 0 Native Estab
SP-III None 0 Native Estab
AUS-XII None 0 Native Estab
AUS-XI None 0 Native Estab
WA-II None 1954 Def Estab
NEA-II None 1974 Def Failed
G260 Galveston Bay 2002 Def Estab
G310 Corpus Christi Bay 2000 Def Estab
CAR-VII Cape Hatteras to Mid-East Florida 2002 Def Estab
S180 St. Johns River 2002 Def Estab
G160 East Mississippi Sound 1997 Def Estab
S200 Biscayne Bay 2004 Def Estab
CIO-I None 0 Native Estab
SEP-H None 2008 Def Estab
SA-III None 2004 Def Estab
CAR-III None 2008 Def Estab
NEP-IX None 2011 Def Estab
CAR-II None 2005 Def Estab
PAN_PAC Panama Pacific Coast 2008 Def Estab
AUS-XIII None 0 Native Estab
AUS-I None 0 Native Estab
AUS-X None 0 Native Estab
AUS-VIII None 0 Native Estab

Occurrence Map

OCC_ID Author Year Date Locality Status Latitude Longitude
2756 US National Museum of Natural History 2008 1997 1997-11-11 Biloxi Def 30.3958 -88.8853
2757 Ruiz et al., unpublished data 2002 2002-09-05 Coast Guard, Corpus Christi Def 27.8149 -97.4042
2758 Ruiz et al., unpublished data 2002 2002-09-06 Sealab and Port of Christi, Corpus Christi Def 27.8286 -97.3910
2759 Ruiz et al., unpublished data None 2002-09-18 Bolivar Yacht Basin, Galveston area Def 29.4286 -94.7084
2760 Ruiz et al., unpublished data 2002 2002-09-20 Outbound Texas City Dike Def 29.3762 -94.8473
2762 Ruiz et al., unpublished data None 2002-09-18 US Coast Guard, Galveston area Def 29.3331 -94.7722
6768 Ruiz et al. unpublished data 2002 2002-08-01 Port of Jacksonville Def 30.3450 -81.6222
6967 Liñero-Arana and Díaz-Díaz 2012 2008 2008-05-22 Caño Morocoto Def 10.2717 -62.9895
7262 Ruiz et al., unpublished data 2008 2008-01-01 Panama Bay Def 8.8333 -79.2500
7263 Ruiz et al., unpublished data 2004 2004-01-01 Miami area Def 25.7742 -80.3378


Bastida-Zavala, J. Rolando; McCann, Linda D.; Keppel; Erica; Ruiz, Gregory M. (2017) The fouling serpulids (Polychaeta: Serpulidae) from United States coastal waters: an overview, European Journal of Taxonomy 344: 1-76

Barnes, Robert D. (1983) Invertebrate Zoology, Saunders, Philadelphia. Pp. 883

Bastida-Zavala, Rolando; de León-González, Jesús Ángel; Carballo Cenizo, José Luis; Moreno-Dávila, Betzabé (2014) [Aquatic Invasive Species in Mexico], Comisión Nacional para el Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad, <missing place>. Pp. 317-336

Bastida-Zavala, Rolando; García-Madrigal, Socorro (2012) First record in the Tropical Eastern Pacific of the exotic species Ficopomatus uschakovi (Polychaeta, Serpulidae), ZooKeys 238: 45-55

Blakeslee, April M. H.; Miller, A. Whitman; Ruiz, Gregory M.; Kerstin Johannesson · Carl André ·Johannsson, Kerstin;· André, Carl; Panova, Marina (2021) Population structure and phylogeography of two North Atlantic Littorina species with contrasting larval development, Marine Biology 168: <missing location>

de Assis, José Eriberto; Alonso, Carmen; Christoffersen, Martin Lindsey (2008) First record of Ficopomatus uschakovi (Pillai, 1960) Serpulidae (Polychaeta: Annelida) for the Western Atlantic, Revista Nordestina de Biologia 19(1): 51-58

Gaonkar, Chetan A.; Sawant, Subhash S.; Anil, Arga Chandrashekar; Krishnamurthy, Venkat; Harkantra, Sandanand (2010) Changes in the occurrence of hard substratum fauna: A case study from Mumbai Harbour, India, Indian Journal of Marine Science 39(1): 74-84

Hill, M. B. (1967) The life cycles and salinity tolerance of the serpulids Mercierella enigmatica Fauvel and Hydroides uncinata (Philippi) at Lagos,Nigeria, Journal of Animal Ecology 36(2): 303-321

Liñero-Arana, Ildefonso; Díaz-Díaz, Óscar (2012) [Presence of the exotic polychaete Ficopomatus uschakovi (Polychaeta: Serpu lidae) in Venezuela: Description and comm ents on its distribution], Interciencia 37(3): 234-237

Ruiz, Gregory M.; Geller, Jonathan (2018) Spatial and temporal analysis of marine invasions in California, Part II: Humboldt Bay, Marina del Re, Port Hueneme, and San Francisco Bay, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center & Moss Landing Laboratories, Edgewater MD, Moss Landing CA. Pp. <missing location>

Ten Hove, H. A.; Weerdenburg, J. C. A. (1978) A generic revision of the brackish-water serpulid Ficopomatus Southern 1921 (Polychaeta : Serpulinae) including Mercierella Fauvel 1923, Sphaeropomatus Treadwell 1934, Mercierellopsis Rioja 1945 and Neopomatus Pillai 196, Biological Bulletin 154: 96-120

U.S. National Museum of Natural History 2002-2021 Invertebrate Zoology Collections Database.

Wesselingh, Frank P. and 20 authors (2019) Mollusc species from the Pontocaspian region- an expert opinion list, ZooKeys 824: 31-124

Wong, Eunice; Kupriyanova, Elena K.; Hutchings, Pat; Capa, María; Radashevsky, Vasily; ten Hove, Harry A. (2014) A graphically illustrated glossary of polychaete terminology: invasive species of Sabellidae, Serpulidae and Spionidae, Memoirs of Museum of Victoria 71: 327-342

Zabi, Guilliaume; Le Loeuff, Pierre (1993) Revue de connaissances de la faune benthique de milieux marginaux-littoraux de l'Afirque de l' Ouest, Revue d Hydrobiologie Tropicale 25(3): 209-251