NIWA Guide to Polychaeta | Shore polychaetes | Pick shore group | Pick shore family | Shell polychaetes
Onuphidae Family Onuphidae (onuphid)
Eunicida (Annelida: Polychaeta)
About Family Onuphidae polychaetes in New Zealand.  
How to recognise the family: Large carnivorous or scavenging worms, cylindrical anteriorly and usually somewhat dorsoventrally flattened further along the body. The prostomium has a small pair of anterior dorsal antennae-like palps above the mouth palps and five long antennae. These are not arranged in a line as in Eunicidae but as a pair of anterior-lateral, a pair of posterior-lateral, and a single median antenna. Taxonomists now consider the outer anterior-lateral pair of 'antennae' to be the 'true' palps with the 'palps' mentioned above being modified 'lips.' The long antennae have thickened bases with annulations. The peristomium may have a pair of short peristomial cirri dorsally, but these are absent in Hyalinoecia and Leptoecia. Jaw mandibles and multiple maxillae plates are similar to eunicids. As in the eunicids, only the neuropodium has chaetae, but onuphids have rather more parapodial lobe development, at least on the anterior segments. The gills are at the base of the dorsal cirri. There are one or two pairs of anal cirri. Onuphids live in tubes lined with a secretion of variable thickness and toughness, and often covered with some adhering particles from the substratum. Adult size: Large, often 100 mm long and 8 mm wide or larger. The spectacular Australonuphis bait worms of Australian surf beaches can be more than a metre long. In New Zealand the surf beach Hartmanonuphis pectinata may be 500 mm total length. Hyalinoecia tubicola tubes may be 300 mm long.
How to recognise the New Zealand genera: The unique flattened tubes of Nothria and related genera are armoured with large shell fragments, echinoid spines, sponge spicules, etc. Onuphis and others build thick mud tubes very like maldanids, but usually thinly lined with a tough tranparent secretion. However Hyalinoecia and Leptoecia both secrete semi-transparent tubes bare of sediment, and are known as quill worms for these long curved horny structures they drag around behind them. Leptoecia is characterised by a helmet-like prostomium. In some genera such as Nothria and Hyalinoecia, the first one to three pairs of parapodia are directed towards the ventral-anterior in a cage-like fashion, with the first being prolonged in length. In Rhamphobrachium and Brevibrachium three and five pairs of parapodia respectively are somewhat similarly modified with the addition of long spiny hooks. In Diopatra spp. the gills have spirally arranged filaments. Paradiopatra is related but lacks gills or has comb-like filaments. The genus Kinbergonuphis contains Onuphis-like species with short antennal bases.
Quick pick shore species: Hartmanonuphis pectinata (Knox & Hicks, 1973) is so far the only beach species known. Possibly Diopatra akarana might be found almost intertidally in harbours. Brevibrachium maculatum is a shell-borer, and might be found on shellfish at margins of pools.
Possible misidentifications: Similar to eunicids, but differ in anntennae morphology and generally look more ornate anteriorly.
Distributions, lifestyle, and habitat: Throughout New Zealand. Lower intertidal and subtidal to deep sea. Mostly subtidal. Burrowing or surface-dwelling mostly on soft substrata, but Brevibrachium maculatum occurs in crevice habitats and in borings on coralline-encrusted paua (Haliotis iris). Onuphis aucklandensis is probably the commonest shallow-water onuphid and is found only in muddy substrata. Hyalinoecia quill worms are abundant worldwide on the continental shelf and slope, and are known to aggregate to scavenge animal carcasses falling to the bottom.Surface-roaming Hyalinoecia species are taken in large numbers in bottom trawls over soft sediments of the continental slope of New Zealand.
Abundance: Common subtidally.
Taxonomic note: The named New Zealand species of deep water include the quill worms Hyalinoecia tubicola longibranchiata McIntosh, 1885, Hyalinoecia incubans Orensanz, 1990, and Leptoecia oxyrhincha (Kucheruk, 1978), and several Paradiopatra species. Shallower species include Diopatra akarana Knox & Hicks, 1973, Onuphis aucklandensis Augener, 1924, Onuphis iridescens (Johnson, 1901), Kinbergonuphis proalopus (Chamberlin, 1919), Brevibrachium maculatum (Estcourt, 1966), and Rhamphobrachium averincevi Kucheruk, 1979. Most of the prior species records for New Zealand Nothria are now placed in genera Kinbergonuphis, Onuphis, Hyalinoecia, and Achinothria, but undescribed Nothria species exist.
References: (Augener 1924b: p412-423, f10-11), (Day & Hutchings 1979: p118-119), (Estcourt 1966: p205-207, f1-3), (Fauchald 1982: p1-109, f1-28), (Knox & Hicks 1973: p281-294, f1-45), (McIntosh 1885: p337-340, P40.3), (Orensanz 1990: p52, 129-133, P11, 39), (Paxton 1986a: p1-74, f1-37), (Paxton 1986b: p79-80, 89, f3, 8), (Paxton 1993: p115-154, f1-35).
(Full citations at Family pages literature cited list.)

Species in the guide: Rock Species: None for this family.
Sand Species: Hartmanonuphis pectinata
Shell Species: Brevibrachium maculatum

  GOOGLE Search |   AlltheWeb Search | CISTI |   CBIF BiOSC Gateway | GOBASE Molecular | GenBank |
Family in Ubio Taxonomic Name Server |  PubMed | Scirus | Zoological Record |

  Note: use the Back button of your browser to return to Shore Polychaete Guide.

The information provided by this page and by the pages of the "more information" links is held in a structured form for rapid and frequent updating and improvement. Descriptive text is compiled from a number of database fields, some of which may occasionally be empty.
Last modified by G. Read, 25/07/2004    (dd/mm/yy)