Invasion History

First Non-native North American Tidal Record: 1962
First Non-native West Coast Tidal Record: 1968
First Non-native East/Gulf Coast Tidal Record: 1962

General Invasion History:

The tropical shipworm Teredo furcifera was described from Indonesia in 1894 and is now cosmopolitan (Turner 1966; Turner 1971). In the marine borer surveys, done for the U.S. Navy by the W. F. Clapp laboratories, T. furcifera (including synonyms) was reported from Japan, Philippines, Guam, Hawaii, the Panama Canal Zone, Cuba, Trinidad, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Florida, and Bermuda (Wallour 1960). It has been collected around the world in tropical regions (Karande 1966; Rayner 1979; Tsunoda 1979; Nair 1984; Singh and Sasekumar 1994; Barreto et al. 2000). A few specimens were collected in Port Hueneme California, and the Gulf of California (Museum of Comparative Zoology 2009).

North American Invasion History:

Invasion History on the West Coast:

In 1968–69, three collections of T. furcifera (MCZ 278003, MCZ 278088, MCZ 350235), were made from Port Hueneme, California, identified by Ruth Turner's laboratory. Another sample (MCZ 170709) came from La Paz, Baja California, Mexico, in 1954, in the Gulf of California (Museum of Comparative Zoology 2009). 

Invasion History on the East Coast:

On the East Coast, this shipworm was collected from Wilmington, North Carolina, in 1941 (Museum of Comparative Zoology 2009), and was collected from the Atlantic and Gulf coasts from Fort Pierce, Florida to Corpus Christi, Texas (Wallour 1960). It was not mentioned in an earlier shipworm survey (Brown 1953). We consider this shipworm to be cryptogenic in the subtropical Northwest Atlantic (Carlton and Ruckelshaus 1997). Florida occurrences included Key West, Tampa, Panama City, Miami, and Fort Pierce (Wallour 1960). 
North of Cape Hatteras,T. furcifera has been introduced presumably by wooden vessels, but has not become established. This shipworm was collected in 1963 from the wooden sailing ship 'Bounty II', built for the remake of the movie 'Mutiny on the Bounty' which had been docked over the winter in Oyster Bay Long Island, New York, following a long voyage (2 years) from Tahiti. The worm tubes were filled with larval shells, indicating that larvae had been brooded but not released (Turner 1966). Teredo furcifera was seen again in Barnegat Bay in 1974, following the start-up of the Oyster Creek Nuclear Power Plant in 1969. It was the most abundant shipworm in panels in Oyster Creek NJ in July–August of 1974. However, it became scarce in later years, and was not found in 1979 (Hoagland and Turner 1980). Further south,T. furcifera was collected in 1988 and 1989 in pine planks exposed to seawater at Wachapreague VA, at the mouth of Burtons Bay on the Atlantic Coast (McGovern and Burreson 1990). Identifications were made in Ruth Turner's laboratory at Harvard University (Burreson 1998, personal communication). This shipworm was not found north of Florida in previous surveys (Wallour 1960). 

Invasion History in Hawaii:

Teredo furcifera was collected in Pearl Harbor Bartsch 1921; Turner 1966; Coles et al. 1999), and has also been found in Kaneohe Bay, Oahu, and on Midway Island. It has been identified under the synonyms T. bensoni and T. furcillatus, Oahu/HI/Pearl Harbour (Bartsch 1921; Turner 1966; Coles et al. 1999; Wallour 1960; Carlton and Eldredge 2009). Florida in previous surveys (Wallour 1960).

Invasion History Elsewhere in the World:

Teredo furcifera was described from the Indonesia (von Martens, 1894, cited by Turner 1966); it is widely distributed in the Indo-West Pacific and the tropical and subtropical Atlantic, but its native region is unknown (Wallour 1960; Turner 1966). It is mostly unreported or not established from the Pacific coast of the Americas, but was abundant at Salinas and Manta, and rare at Esmeraldas on the coast of Ecuador. It was common to abundant on the four types of wood tested (Cruz 1989).


Teredo furcifera belongs to the family Teredinidae (shipworms) which are highly modified mollusks, hardly recognizable as bivalves, adapted for boring into wood. The shell is reduced to two small, ridged valves covering the head and is used for grinding and tearing wood fibers. The body is naked and elongated and ends with two siphons, protected by elaborate calcareous structures called pallets (Turner 1966). 
In T. furcifera, the shell resembles that of the Naval Shipworm (T. navalis). The pallets have a long stalk, with a moderately long blade, and a transverse ridge at the widest point. The calcareous portion extends to the tip of the blade. The outer face is deeply excavated, forming a U-V shaped cleft. The inner surface is more shallowly excavated and is deeply excavated at the tip, forming a U-shape. The periostracum is light golden to dark brown, and often extends below the transverse ridge. The inside of the cup is white (Turner 1966; Turner 1971). While T. furcifera resembles T. navalis, it differs by brooding its larvae in its gills until the pediveliger stage (240–280μm), while T. navalis releases them much earlier, at the smaller straight-hinge stage (70–90μm, Turner and Johnson 1971; Hoagland and Turner 1980). Adult T. furcifera can reach at least 142 mm in length but can produce larvae at sizes as small as 15 mm (Hoagland and Turner 1980). 
Potentially misidentified species—The diversity of shipworms in tropical waters is very great. Many are now widely distributed in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans, largely because of shipping. The species listed below have been reported in Florida, the Caribbean, West Coast, or Hawaiian waters. 


Taxonomic Tree

Kingdom:   Animalia
Phylum:   Mollusca
Class:   Bivalvia
Subclass:   Heterodonta
Order:   Myoida
Superfamily:   Pholadoidea
Family:   Teredinidae
Genus:   Teredo
Species:   furcifera


Teredo australasiatica (Roch, 1935)
Teredo bensoni (Edmondson, 1946)
Teredo furcata (Moll, 1935)
Teredo furcillatus (Miller, 1924)
Teredo krappei (Moll, 1935)
Teredo laciniata (Roch, 1935)
Teredo parksi (Bartsch, 1921)
Teredo parksi madrasensis (Nair, 1955)

Potentially Misidentified Species

Lyrodus bipartitus
Cosmopolitan, tropical, subtropical

Lyrodus floridanus
W Atlantic (native), subtropical

Lyrodus pedicellatus
Cosmopolitan, tropical-warm temperate, a species complex

Teredo bartschi
Cosmopolitan, tropical-warm temperate

Teredo fulleri
Cosmopolitan, tropical

Teredo johneoni
Cosmopolitan, tropical, subtropical

Teredo navalis
Cosmopolitan, tropical-cold temperate



Shipworms dig long burrows in submerged wood in marine environments. They burrow by rocking and abrading the wood fibers. The mantle covers most of the length of their body and secrete a calcareous lining along the interior of the burrow. They normally have their anterior end with head and shells inside the burrow, and their siphons protruding outwards. The pallets plug the burrow when the siphons are retracted (Barnes 1983). 
Shipworms are protandrous hermaphrodites, beginning life as male and transforming to female, but they have no capacity for self-fertilization. Males release sperm into the water column, which fertilizes eggs for the female. The fertilized eggs are then brooded in the gills. Larvae are retained in the gills to the veliger stage (Hoagland 1986a; Richards et al. 1984). Adult Teredo furcifera can reach at least 142 mm in length, but can produce larvae at sizes as small as 15 mm (Hoagland and Turner 1980). A female may retain 7,000 or more larvae in a single brood (Karande and Pensey, cited by Richards 1984). The larvae of T. furcifera are planktonic for about 3 days. They settle in the pediveliger stage, and then rapidly metamorphose and begin boring into wood within 4 days. They quickly develop a calcified shell, pallets, and burrow lining (Turner and Johnson 1971). Shipworms may obtain some (or most, Paalvast and van der Velde 2013) of their nutrition from plankton, but some comes from wood, which consists largely of cellulose. Symbiotic bacteria fix nitrogen, essential for protein synthesis (Turner and Johnson 1971; Barnes 1983). 
Teredo furcifera is known from fixed wood structures, panels, driftwood, and mangroves in tropical and subtropical climates, and from heated power plant effluents in temperate estuaries (Wallour 1960; Hoagland and Turner 1980; Ibrahim 1981; Hoagland 1983; Singh and Sasekumar 1994). Teredo furcifera is sensitive to low temperatures. They appeared briefly from 1974 to 1977, in a portion of Barnegat Bay, New Jersey subjected to effluents from a nuclear power plant (Hoagland and Turner 1980), but otherwise appear to occur only sporadically in temperate waters (Wallour 1960; Turner 1966; Tsunoda 1979; McGovern and Burreson 1990). Adult T. furcifera can tolerate salinities as low as 6 PSU (Rayner 1979; Baretto et al. 2000) but also can occur in the Red Sea (~40 PSU, Turner 1966).


Phytoplankton; Wood

Trophic Status:

Suspension Feeder



General HabitatCoarse Woody DebrisNone
General HabitatMarinas & DocksNone
General HabitatMangrovesNone
General HabitatVessel HullNone
Salinity RangeMesohaline5-18 PSU
Salinity RangePolyhaline18-30 PSU
Salinity RangeEuhaline30-40 PSU
Tidal RangeSubtidalNone
Tidal RangeLow IntertidalNone
Vertical HabitatEpibenthicNone

Life History

Tolerances and Life History Parameters

Maximum Temperature (ºC)33None
Minimum Salinity (‰)6Experimental (Karande 1966). Best growth 20-36 ppt (Rayner 1979)
Maximum Salinity (‰)40Based on occurrence in Red Sea (Turner 1966)
Minimum Reproductive Salinity66 ppt (Richards 1984)
Maximum Duration22Turner and Johnson 1971
Broad Temperature RangeNoneWarm temperate-Tropical
Broad Salinity RangeNoneMesohaline-Euhaline

General Impacts

Teredo furcifera is one of many shipworms contributing to the rapid riddling of wood in tropical and subtropical waters. Its impacts in these warm waters are difficult to assess, because of the diversity of the shipworm community. However, in the temperate waters of New Jersey, where it was restricted to areas warmed by thermal effluents, it reached high abundance and caused extensive damage to marinas near the Oyster Creek Nuclear Power Plant in Barnegat Bay (Turner 1973; Hoagland and Turner 1980). 

Regional Distribution Map

Bioregion Region Name Year Invasion Status Population Status
EAS-III None 1894 Crypto Estab
CIO-I None 0 Crypto Estab
SP-I None 0 Crypto Estab
EAS-VI None 1935 Crypto Estab
CIO-II None 1935 Crypto Estab
EA-III None 1935 Crypto Estab
SP-XXI None 1921 Def Estab
SP-IX None 1921 Crypto Estab
AUS-X None 0 Crypto Estab
AUS-XII None 0 Crypto Estab
CAR-II None 1953 Crypto Estab
CAR-III None 1922 Crypto Estab
SP-XII None 0 Crypto Estab
CAR-IV None 1953 Crypto Estab
CAR-I Northern Yucatan, Gulf of Mexico, Florida Straits, to Middle Eastern Florida 1953 Crypto Estab
NA-ET4 Bermuda 0 Crypto Estab
NWP-3a None 0 Crypto Estab
RS-3 None 0 Crypto Estab
RS-2 None 0 Crypto Estab
RS-1 None 0 Crypto Estab
SA-II None 1935 Crypto Estab
EAS-I None 1935 Crypto Estab
NA-ET3 Cape Cod to Cape Hatteras 1962 Def Unk
CAR-VII Cape Hatteras to Mid-East Florida 1941 Crypto Unk
G070 Tampa Bay 1960 Crypto Estab
S190 Indian River 1953 Crypto Estab
M050 Great South Bay 1962 Def Failed
M070 Barnegat Bay 1974 Def Failed
M128 _CDA_M128 (Eastern Lower Delmarva) 1988 Def Unk
S200 Biscayne Bay 0 Crypto Estab
S206 _CDA_S206 (Vero Beach) 0 Crypto Estab
G110 St. Andrew Bay 0 Crypto Estab
SP-III None 0 Crypto Estab
EA-V None 0 Crypto Estab
WA-II None 0 Crypto Estab
AUS-I None 0 Crypto Estab
AUS-II None 0 Crypto Estab
G310 Corpus Christi Bay 0 Crypto Estab
SA-III None 0 Crypto Estab
GAden Gulf of Aden 0 Crypto Estab
NEP-VII None 1954 Def Unk
WA-V None 0 Crypto Estab
S050 Cape Fear River 1941 Crypto Unk
SP-XIII None 0 Crypto Estab
SP-VII None 0 Crypto Estab
NEP-VI Pt. Conception to Southern Baja California 1968 Def Unk
P062 _CDA_P062 (Calleguas) 1968 Def Unk
SA-I None 0 Crypto Unk
S045 _CDA_S045 (New) 0 Crypto Unk
NWP-2 None 0 Crypto Estab
SA-IV None 0 Crypto Estab
S030 Bogue Sound 1975 Crypto Unk
AUS-VII None 0 Crypto Estab
NWP-3b None 0 Crypto Unk
NWP-4a None 0 Crypto None
PAN_CAR Panama Caribbean Coast 0 Crypto Estab
SEP-Z None 1987 Def Estab
SEP-I None 1987 Def Estab

Occurrence Map

OCC_ID Author Year Date Locality Status Latitude Longitude


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