Open Access

Occurrence and settlement of the common shipworm Teredo navalis (Bivalvia: Teredinidae) in Bremerhaven harbours, northern Germany

  • Uda Tuente,
  • Dieter Piepenburg and
  • Michael Spindler
Helgoland Marine Research56:0101

Received: 15 August 2001

Accepted: 28 February 2002


The shipworm Teredo navalis L. is a xylophagous bivalve mollusc (Bivalvia: Teredinidae) with a long record of being very destructive to wooden ships and harbour buildings. It has been reported from numerous sites at the coasts of both the North and Baltic Seas since the eighteenth century. Here, we document for the first time the occurrence of live adult T. navalis in the harbours of Bremerhaven (Weser estuary, northern Germany). From August to December 1998, various wooden structures (fir floating fenders and pier posts, oak piles) from seven stations in different docks of two harbours (Überseehafen, Fischereihafen) were investigated for the presence and density of live specimens and burrows of T. navalis. The settlement of larval shipworms was studied by exposing experimental fir panels 0.06 m2 in size at 20 stations at water depths between 1 and 2 m for periods of 4 months between July and November. In addition, hydrographic profiles (0–8 m water depth) were obtained at 17 stations in five docks once every month from August to December. Live adult shipworms were found in both fir floating fenders and oak piles at four stations. The largest specimen found was 250 mm long. Shipworm burrows were detected at five stations in almost every wooden structure investigated but their abundances differed significantly: Maximum values were >10,000 m–2 in fir floating fenders, 4,600 m–2 in oak piles and 200 m–2 in fir pier posts. Actual shipworm infestation was detected at three of 16 stations in the exposed fir panels (1–3 burrow holes per panel). Water temperatures and salinities varied considerably during the 4-month investigation period. Temperatures decreased from 19.9°C in August to 0.7°C in December. Salinities ranged from 17.6 in August to 1.1 in November, but only at two lock stations during November and December did value drop below 5, which is regarded as the lethal limit for the larvae of this euryhaline teredinid species. We conclude that T. navalis encounters favourable conditions for growth and reproduction in the harbours of Bremerhaven, at least during summer and autumn, and is a common element of the harbour ecosystem. Therefore, a persistent infestation of all wooden structures after a relatively short period of time seems to be highly probable.

Harmful invaders Teredo navalis Harbour docks Bremerhaven