Invasion History

First Non-native North American Tidal Record: 2011
First Non-native West Coast Tidal Record: 2011
First Non-native East/Gulf Coast Tidal Record:

General Invasion History:

The tube-dwelling sabellid polychaete Parasabella fullo was described by Grube in 1879 from the northern Japan, in the Sea of Japan, and also occurs on the coast of Russia (Buzhinskaja 2013, cited by Keppel et al. 2020). In 2011, it was found in a survey of the hulls of recreational boats (Ashton et al. 2012) and epifauna in marinas (California Department of Fish and Wildlife 2014), and on fouling plates in Los Angeles Harbor (Reish et al. 2018).

North American Invasion History:

Invasion History on the West Coast:

Parasabella fullo was found in 2011 on the hulls of recreational boats in Santa Barbara Harbor and at the San Diego Police Dock, in San Diego Bay (Ashton et al. 2012; Keppel et al. 2020). In the same year, it was also found in a survey of subtidal epifauna in harbors in Monterey, Harbor, Santa Barbara, Channel Island Harbor, Port Hueneme, Marina del Rey, Los Angeles Harbor, Huntington Harbor, Newport Bay, Dana Point Harbor, Mission Bay, and San Diego Bay (California Department of Fish and Wildlife 2014). It was also found in a fouling plate survey in Los Angeles Harbor in 2013–2014 (Reish et al. 2018).


Parasabella fullo is a tube-dwelling sabellid polychaete. Sabellids are often called 'feather-duster worms' and are characterized by having a prostomium with the palps modified into a crown of paired feather-like radioles (bristles, 12–26 pairs), arranged in two semicircles. The radioles lack eyes, have long flanges along their edges and projecting lamellae, giving the radioles a feather-like appearance. The radiolar tips are bare and finger-like. The peristomium is modified into an anterior collar, into which the radioles can be withdrawn. A ciliated ventral groove runs from a divide in the dorsal side of peristomial collar, and then turning to the ventral anus along the ventral side of the abdomen (Keppel et al. 2020). The margins of the collar are not fused to the ventral groove, and are flap-like. The ventral shield of the collar has a median indentation between the two sets of radioles, The body has a short thoracic region (4–8 chaetigers) and a longer abdominal region, of ~67–108 chaetigers (based on syntypes, Keppel et al. 2020).

The chaetae around the collar are narrowly hooded. The parapodia are short, with bundles of notochaetae and neurochaetae on elevations (tori) on the notopodia and neuropodia (dorsal and ventral lateral extensiona)  of each chaetiger. The dorsal thoracic notochaetae are elongate and narrowly hooded, while the more ventral notochaetae are spinelike, and broadly hooded. The thoracic chaetigers also bear rows of uncinae, short, deeply embedded chaetae, avicular (bird-like) in form, with 7-9 teeth above the main fang and a short handle. The abdominal chaetae are narrowly hooded in both anterior and posterior rows.  The uncini have  7 to 10 rows of similar-sized teeth above the main fang covering about half the length of main fang.  The terminal segment (pygidium) forms a rounded lobe. Overall length is ~ 16-58 mm. The overall color is whitish to brown. Radioles are spotted with brown pigment (Keppel et al. 2020).


Taxonomic Tree

Kingdom:   Animalia
Phylum:   Annelida
Class:   Polychaeta
Subclass:   Palpata
Order:   Canalipalpata
Suborder:   Sabellida
Family:   Sabellidae
Genus:   Parasabella
Species:   fullo


Sabella fullo (Grube, 1878)
Demonax fullo (Zachs, 1933)
Demonax leucaspius (Annenkova, 1938)
Parasabella fullo (Buzhinskaja, 2013)

Potentially Misidentified Species

Parasabella media
Found from Alaska to Santa Rosa Island, in rocky crevices, leathery sand-coated tubes; branchial crown is reddish-brown, mottled with white (Blake and Ruff 2007). Radiolar tips filiform with narrow flanges; dorsal collar margins as long as 2 thoracic segments in dorsal view (Keppel et al. 2020).

Parasabella pallida
Found from San Francisco Bay to Baja California. Radiolar tips filiform with narrow flanges; dorsal collar margins as long as 2 thoracic segments in dorsal view (Keppel et al. 2020).

Parasabella rugosa
Found from British Columbia to Baja California; associated with pilings and hard substrate, tubes similar to P. media



Based on limited information, Parasabella fullo appears to be restricted to relatively cool waters and marine salinities (Keppel et al. 2020). Sabellid worms are suspension-feeders, and use their ciliated crown of tentacles to capture particles of phytoplankton and detritus and transport them to their mouths (Fauchald and Jumars 1979).


Phytoplankton, detritus



Trophic Status:

Suspension Feeder



General HabitatRockyNone
General HabitatMarinas & DocksNone
General HabitatVessel HullNone
Salinity RangePolyhaline18-30 PSU
Salinity RangeEuhaline30-40 PSU
Tidal RangeSubtidalNone
Vertical HabitatEpibenthicNone

Life History

Parasabella fullo is a tube-dwelling sabellid polychaete. In a related species, P. media is hermaphroditic, depositing a ring of eggs around the base if its tube. The lecithotrophic larvae swim for about a day before settling and then take about a week to metamorphose, attaching to a substrate, developing elongated branchiae, and constructing a straight, transparent tube. After about a month, at 8 setigers, the worm reaches the juvenile stage, with 4 pairs of branchiae (McEuen et al. 1983).

Tolerances and Life History Parameters

Maximum Duration1Planktonic period of larva of Parasabella media (McEuen et al. 1983)
Minimum Length (mm)13Keppel et al. 2020
Maximum Length (mm)58Keppel et al. 2020
Broad Temperature RangeNoneCold-Temperate
Broad Salinity RangeNonePolyhaline-Euhaline

General Impacts

No impacts have been reported for Parasabella fullo. However, other sabellids (Sabella spallanzanii; Branchiomma bairdii) have been important fouling organisms in harbors and aquaculture operations (Holloway and Keough 2002; Tovar-Hernandez et al. 2012).

Regional Distribution Map

Bioregion Region Name Year Invasion Status Population Status
NEP-VI Pt. Conception to Southern Baja California 2011 Def Estab
P065 _CDA_P065 (Santa Barbara Channel) 2011 Def Estab
P020 San Diego Bay 2011 Def Estab
P030 Mission Bay 2011 Def Estab
P027 _CDA_P027 (Aliso-San Onofre) 2011 Def Estab
P040 Newport Bay 2011 Def Estab
P050 San Pedro Bay 2011 Def Estab
P053 _CDA_P053 (Santa Monica Bay) 2011 Def Estab
P062 _CDA_P062 (Calleguas) 2011 Def Estab
NEP-V Northern California to Mid Channel Islands 2011 Def Estab
P080 Monterey Bay 2011 Def Estab
NWP-3a None 1878 Native Estab
NWP-4a None 0 Native Estab

Occurrence Map

OCC_ID Author Year Date Locality Status Latitude Longitude


Ashton, Gail; Zabin, Chela; Davidson, Ian; Ruiz, Greg (2012) Aquatic Invasive Species Vector Risk Assessments: Recreational vessels as vectors for non-native marine species in California, California Ocean Science Trust, Sacramento CA. Pp. <missing location>

Blake, James A.; Ruff, R. Eugene (2007) The Light and Smith Manual: Intertidal invertebrates from Central California to Oregon (4th edition), University of California, Berkeley CA. Pp. 309-410

California Academy of Sciences 2005-2015 Invertebrate Zoology Collection Database. <missing URL>

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (2014) Introduced Aquatic Species in California Bays and Harbors, 2011 Survey, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Sacramento CA. Pp. 1-36

Fauchald, Kristian; Jumars, Peter A. (1979) The diet of worms : A study of polychaete feeding guilds, Oceanography and Marine Biology, an Annual Review 17: 193-284

Holloway, Michael; Keough, Michael (2002) Effects of an introduced polychaete, Sabella spallanzanii, on the development of epifaunal assemblages., Marine Ecology Progress Series 236: 137-154

Keppel, E. ; Ruiz, G. M.; Tovar–Hernández, M. A. (2020) Re-description of Parasabella fullo (Grube, 1878) (Polychaeta: Sabellidae) and diagnostic characteristics for detection in California, European Journal of Zoology 87(1): 105-115
DOI: 10.1080/24750263.2020.1721578

McEuen, F. S.; Wu, B.L.; Chia, F. S. (1983) Reproduction and development of Sabella media, a sabellid polychaete with extratubular brooding, Marine Biology 76: 301-309

Reish, Donald J.; Gerlinger, Thomas V.; Ware, Robert R. (2018) Comparison of the polychaetous annelids populations on suspended test panels in Los Angeles Harbor in 1950-1951 with the populations in 2013-2014, Bulletin of the Southern California Academy of Sciences 17(1): 82-90

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>

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