The remarkable squidworm is an example of discoveries that await in deep-pelagic habitats

Karen J. Osborn, Laurence P. Madin, Greg W. Rouse

Abstract

An intriguing new annelid, Teuthidodrilus samae (Annelida, Cirratuliformia) gen. and sp. nov., was observed and collected during deep-water column exploration of the western Celebes Sea. The Celebes Sea is a deep pocket basin, effectively isolated from surrounding deep water, and is part of the Coral Triangle, a focal area for conservation because of its high diversity and unique geological history. Collected specimens reached 94 mm in length and possessed 10 anterior appendages that were as long or longer than the body. Two characters distinguish T. samae from other polychaetes: notochaetae forming broad, concavo-convex paddles and six pairs of free-standing, oppositely branched nuchal organs. Phylogenetic analysis of five genes and a 29-character morphological matrix showed that T. samae is an acrocirrid (primarily benthic polychaetes) belonging to the morphologically diverse swimming clade. Pelagic animals within primarily benthic clades are of particular interest in evolutionary biology, because their adaptations to life in the water column inform us of the evolutionary possibilities and constraints within the clade and indirectly of the selective pressures at work in this unfamiliar habitat. This new genus illustrates how much we have to learn about even the large, abundant inhabitants of deep-pelagic communities.

Footnotes

  • Present address: University of California, Santa Cruz, Institute of Marine Sciences, 1156 High Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95064, USA

  • Received October 4, 2010.
  • Accepted November 4, 2010.
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