NIWA Guide to Polychaeta | Shore polychaetes | Pick shore group | Pick shore family | Shell polychaetes
Cirratulidae Family Cirratulidae (cirratulid/sphagetti worm)
Terebellida (Annelida: Polychaeta)
About Family Cirratulidae polychaetes in New Zealand.  
How to recognise the family: Sedentary, cylindrical burrowers, notable for a profusion of simple elongate filaments along the body. Some of the filaments occur as an anterior cluster of tentacles (sometimes called tentacular filaments), grooved for deposit-feeding, whereas the majority are ungrooved filaments called branchiae, usually one pair per segment. The head is conical or wedge-shaped. Chaetae are simple capillaries, usually also with acicular chaetae or simple hooks. Anal cirri are lacking. Adult size: One to 20 cm or more in length.
How to recognise the New Zealand genera: The distinctions between nearly all cirratulid genera have been confused to the extent that common species may have more than one name in general use. In addition, separate names have sometimes been assigned to juvenile forms. Major revisions are still underway.

Among the genera with one pair of grooved feeding tentacles or palps Chaetozone has near-complete rings of posterior acicular chaetae, Tharyx has anterior eyespots and some acicular chaetae, Dodecaceria has acicular hooks with spoon-shaped ends and has only up to eight pairs of anterior branchiae. The multi-tentacled genera are the large cirratulids most commonly encountered in sediment under intertidal stones. Usually the worm is buried with only the writhing orange or red branchial filaments visible. Timarete (includes Ambo) have filaments on chaetigers anterior to the grooved tentacles (two pairs per chaetiger in Ambo subgroup) and over most of the body the filaments are well separated dorsally from the parapodia. In Protocirrineris, which has only capillary chaetae, tentacles and filaments begin on the same chaetiger and filaments are always just dorsal to the notochaetae. In all three genera the tentacles are in a group over several anterior segments.

Quick pick shore species: A large orange Timarete species lives under stones and in sediment-filled crevices, as does another Timarete species and a very elongate cirratulid probably in genus Protocirrineris. Timarete anchylochaetus is frequently used for any large orange cirratulid. Unfortunately the species names have not yet been resolved. Much smaller Chaetozone and Tharyx species occur offshore or in harbours in the shallow subtidal. The small orange-green Dodecaceria berkeleyi Knox, 1971 bores into shells and coralline algae crust.
Possible misidentifications: Cirratulid and terebellid tentacles look much the same when observed protruding from the sediment. Terebellid tentacles are usually pale and not noticeably coloured.
Distributions, lifestyle, and habitat: Intertidal to continental shelf depths throughout New Zealand, most often associated with sediment, including the sediment forming the poorly-sorted contents of rock crevices and filling gaps under boulders
Abundance: Common to abundant.
Taxonomic note: The large cirratulids first described from New Zealand are Cirratulus anchylochaetus Schmarda, 1861 and C. nuchalis Ehlers, 1907. Unfortunately it is uncertain which of the common species these authors were describing.
References: (Benham 1950: p19-22, f4-5), (Blake 1996e: p263-384, f8.1-8.47), (Ehlers 1907: p22-23), (Knox 1971: p1437-1443, f1-10), (McIntosh 1885: p387), (Petersen 1991: p592), (Schmarda 1861: p58), (Woodham & Chambers 1994: p307-316, f1-4), (Whitley 1966: p79).
(Full citations at Family pages literature cited list.)

Species in the guide: Rock Species: Timarete anchylochaetus
Sand Species: Timarete anchylochaetus
Shell Species: Dodecaceria berkeleyi

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Last modified by G. Read, 25/07/2004    (dd/mm/yy)