Riftia pachyptila

Alternate names: giant tubeworm, giant vent tubeworm

Author: Jones, 1981


General: Highly specialized chemosynthetic vent worm resides in smooth, white tubes with red plume protruding. Heavily vascularized plume is comprised of fine lamellae and split along length. Muscular vestimentum is wing-shaped. Trunk contains large trophosome housing chemo-symbiotic bacteria. Parchment-like tubes are flexible and made of chitinous protein. Tubeworms form clusters on rock and mineral substrate in areas of diffuse venting.

Size: To 1.5 m tall.

Reproduction: Males broadcast sperm, but fertilization occurs within the tube of the female. Trochophore larvae facilitate dispersal to new hydrothermal vent fields. Symbiotic bacteria are acquired from the environment when suitable habitat for settlement has been found.

Geographic Information

Habitat description: Benthic. Hydrothermal vents.

Ocean range (global): East Pacific Rise and Galapagos Islands.

Additional Information

Color: Distinctive red plumes and white tubes.

Diet: Nutrition provided by symbiotic sulfur-oxidizing bacteria.


Encyclopedia of Life

Tree of Life

World Register of Marine Species

National Center for Biotechnology Information

Cary, S.C., H. Felbeck, and N.D. Holland (1989). Observations on the reproductive biology of the hydrothermal vent tube worm Riftia pachyptila. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 52: 89-94.

Desbruyères, D., M. Segonzac, and M. Bright, ed. (2006). Handbook of Deep-Sea Hydrothermal Vent Fauna. 2nd edition. Linz: Denisia, 18, 544 pp.

Jones, Meredith L. (1981). Riftia pachyptila, new genus, new species, the vestimentiferan worm from the Gal√°pagos Rift geothermal vents (Pogonophora. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. 93(4): 1295-1313.

Marsh, A.G., L.S. Mullineaux, C.M. Young, and D.T. Manahan (2001). Larval dispersal potential of the tubeworm Riftia pachyptila at deep-sea hydrothermal vents. Nature, 411: 77-80. https://doi.org/10.1038/35075063

Citation: Riftia pachyptila (Jones, 1981) Deep-Sea Guide (DSG) at http://dsg/mbari.org/dsg/view/concept/Riftia%20pachyptila. Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI). Consulted on 2023-09-23.
Copyright © 2015