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Great shipworm

size:

up to 12 centimeters

color:

yellow-white or white

food:

phytoplankton

enemies:

is not consumed

reproduction:

sexual

  • Dut: Paalworm
  • Lat: Teredo navalis
  • Eng: Great shipworm
  • Ger: Schiffsbohrwum
Great shipworm, Stefan Gollasch

Great shipworm

Despite its name, the great shipworm is not a worm. It is a bivalve with incredibly small shells on an elongated, unprotected mollusc body. It lives together with bacteria that can digest wood. In that way, it is able to 'eat' wood while digging a protective tunnel at the same time. The wooden ships in the 17th century brought the animal to the Netherlands. In the 18th century, the animal created a huge disaster. It destroyed all the wooden piling used to†protect the dikes. Nowadays, the great ship worm still forms a threat for the ship wrecks in the Wadden Sea.

On Texel


The great ship worm can be found on piling along the foot of the dikes on Texel and in wooden ship wrecks in the Wadden Sea. They form a threat for the unusual ship wrecks dating back to the Golden Age.

  • On Texel

    The great ship worm can be found on piling along the foot of the dikes on Texel and in wooden ship wrecks in the Wadden Sea. They form a threat for the unusual ship wrecks dating back to the Golden Age.

  • Distribution and habitat

    The great ship worm lives in Dutch waters dug into wood. You find it in ship wrecks and wooden marine litter.

  • The pain of God
    Great shipworm, Stefan Gollasch

    In the 17th century, the great shipworm was mentioned by the historian Pieter Cornelisz Hooft. He said that the animal was already seen in 1580 in the wooden dike piling in Zeeland. The great shipworm was the cause of an incredible disaster in the 18th century. The small animal ruined all wooden dike piling along the coast in a rapid rate. One saw the arrival of this damaging animal as a punishment from God for the mores-less behavior and the extravagant enrichment of the Dutch population during the Golden Age.

  • Distribution and habitat

    The great ship worm lives in Dutch waters dug into wood. You find it in ship wrecks and wooden marine litter.