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Nephtyidae Family Nephtyidae (nephtyid)
Phyllodocida (Annelida: Polychaeta)
About Family Nephtyidae polychaetes in New Zealand.  
How to recognise the family: Nephtyids are muscular, vigorous, free-burrowing worms, and usually white or cream in colour. Some species are active predators while others appear to be detritivores. The body is flattened and squarish in section, with well-developed parapodial lobes and long chaetae. It is also stiffened by the presence of calcium granules in the muscles. These attributes enable nephtyids to swim and burrow well with eel-like body waves, a useful attribute for species living on surf beaches. The head is a small elongated rectangle with two pairs of small 'antennae' (the ventral pair are actually palps) at the spatulate anterior edge. Tiny eye pairs are sometimes visible at the posterior margin. The proboscis is very large and covered with a pattern of longitudinal rows of sizeable papillae. The first segment partially surrounds the head and its enlarged cirri are sometimes called tentacular cirri. Chaetae are capillaries that are variously ornamented. Forked chaetae may also occur. There is a single long anal cirrus mounted on a cone. Nephtyids are mainly identified from parapodial morphology, including the shapes of the parapodial lobes that flank the chaetae. A characteristic cirrus, the dorsal interramal cirrus, is attached below the tip of the notopodium and curves into the large gap between notopodium and neuropodium. There is an additional cirrus, the notopodial cirrus, projecting from the base of the interramal cirrus below the notochaetae. There may be a ventral interramal cirrus. Adult size: Aglaophamus macroura is the largest species at up to 170 mm in length.
How to recognise the New Zealand genera: In Aglaophamus the dorsal interramal cirrus curves outwards and downwards like a fern frond, whereas in Nephtys the direction of curve is inwards following the line of the body wall. It is important to visualise this distinction clearly if using it as a quick identification aid, however in very small individuals the curvature is not apparent.
Quick pick shore species: There are two commonly encountered New Zealand species. Aglaophamus macroura (Schmarda, 1861) is a large species notable for its very large post-neurochaetal lamellae and leaf-like notopodial cirri. Aglaophamus verrilli (McIntosh, 1885) is less sizeable and recognisable from the presence of long, slender, ventral interramal cirri. Its notopodial cirri are short and slender. Aglaophamus elamellata (Eliason, 1951), Aglaophamus virginis (Kinberg, 1866), and Nephtys bruuni Kirkegaard, 1995 are also reported from New Zealand. There are further undescribed species.
Possible misidentifications: None
Distributions, lifestyle, and habitat: Throughout New Zealand. Intertidal and subtidal to across the continental shelf.Aglaophamus macroura is mainly an intertidal species of harbour sand flats, and Aglaophamus verrilli is found in subtidal fine to muddy sands.
Abundance: Common.
Taxonomic note: Nephtyids are named for Nephthys, a minor Egyptian deity. The second 'h' of the deity has become lost (except in genus Micronephthys), leaving an awkward 'hty' sequence easily misspelled 'thy'.
References: (Estcourt 1975: p149-154, f1), (Hartman 1967: p74-76, P23), (Hilbig 1994c: p329-362, f13.1-13), (Kirkegaard 1995: p36-38, f22), (Knox 1960a: p115 (refers to names never published)), (McIntosh 1885: p163-64, P26.6-7, 32a.8), (Rainer & Hutchings 1977: p316-320, f7-11), (Schmarda 1861: p91).
(Full citations at Family pages literature cited list.)

Species in the guide: Rock Species: None for this family.
Sand Species: Aglaophamus macroura
Shell Species: None for this family.

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