Palolo are found in tropical regions of Asia and the Pacific, including Vanuatu. Palolo are a type of segmented marine worm that grow up to 40 cm in length. Each segment of their bodies has paddlelike appendages with gills. The head of the worm has many sensory tentacles. Males are reddish-brown and females are bluish-green. They live in crevices and coral rubble.
Up to 40 cm in length.
During the breeding season, the worm breaks in half with the tail section carrying the eggs or sperm to the ocean surface. The tail section looks like an animal and has eyes and drifts on the waves in large, tangled masses of thousands of worms. The head section remains in the reef. Breeding occurs at least twice per year, at almost the same time annually and following a phase of the moon. There is a strong link between El Niño and the quantity of palolo. Strong El Niño tend to result in very low palolo harvests. More palolo seem to spawn in years of neutral El Niño.
Palolo are omnivores feeding on both invertebrate and algal material. They are also scavenger feeders.
When to Look
Where to Look
There are several species of Palolo worms, some in the genus Palolo and some in the genus Eunice. Palolo viridis is also known as Eunice viridis and is the more commonly seen species in the Pacific and Vanuatu and is sometimes considered to be synonymous with P. siciliensis.
Palolo is easily identified, particularly by its scoop-shaped mandibles.