NIWA Guide to Polychaeta | Shore polychaetes | Pick shore group | Pick shore family | Shell polychaetes
Terebellidae Family Terebellidae (terebellid)
Terebellida (Annelida: Polychaeta)
About Family Terebellidae polychaetes in New Zealand.  
How to recognise the family: Terebellids are burrow and crevice-dwelling polychaetes, and are often of large size. Their most conspicuous aspect in life is a confusion of constantly active tentacles radiating from the tube opening and for that reason they are sometimes called spaghetti worms. Numerous, very long mouth tentacles are used for finding and collecting food particles from the sediment surface. Unlike the ampharetids the tentacles are not retractable into the mouth. Terebellids have plump anterior bodies and usually numerous segments in long tapered posterior ends, whereas ampharetids, like pectinariids, have more compact bodies. There are usually complex branched gills laterally on up to three anterior chaetigers (first present on what is regarded as segment two), but in the subfamily Thelepodinae the gills are numerous simple filaments. Thoracic uncini of mid-body chaetigers are in double rows in the subfamily Amphitritinae, the largest subfamily. In the subfamily Polycirrinae the prostomium is expanded as a conspicuous undulating membrane which bears the tentacles, and gills are absent. The posterior body lacks notochaetae in many species although they are present in many thelepodines and a few amphitritines. The pygidium is a simple ring. Adult size: Up to 150 mm long and 15 mm wide.
How to recognise the New Zealand genera: See species notes.
Quick pick shore species: Terebella plagiostoma (branched gills, no lateral lobes) occurs widely, including on cockle shell banks in harbours. Genus Streblosoma has gills as simple filaments, a notopodium present on the first gill-bearing segment, and probably includes some New Zealand records of 'Thelepus' species.The very large Streblosoma toddae Hutchings & Smith, 1997 ('Thelepus spectabilis' of Morton & Miller 1969, 1973) with a bark-like tube encrusted with shell, occurs on sand flats in northern North Island harbours, and less-commonly on sheltered rocky shores throughout New Zealand. Pista pegma Hutchings & Smith, 1997 is an Amphitritinae species with lateral lobes, anterior uncini long-handled, notopodia on 17 segments, and long-stalked some-what spiral-plumed gills. In contrast Pseudopista rostrata Hutchings & Smith, 1997 has poorly-developed lateral lobes and shorter-handled uncini. Amphitritinae species with two pairs of branched gills and notopodia from segment 4 are likely to belong to genus Nicolea. Nicolea maxima Augener, 1923 is a large species from the Auckland Islands. N. armilla is a large North Island species with 18 pairs of notopodia and found under sand-embedded boulders. Neoleprea papilla Hutchings & Smith, 1997 is a large coiled tubeless reddish-brown species with two pairs of branched gills, notopodia from segment 3, and a prominent papilla on segment 3. Another species described from New Zealand is Amaeana antipoda Augener, 1926, a small subtidal Polycirrinae species. Other Polycirrinae species are yet to be described.
Possible misidentifications: Trichobranchidae are very similar to terebellids, and frequently are regarded as a subfamily of the terebellids. However, a recent analysis suggest the similarity relates to convergent evolution. They have long-handled hooks in the anterior region, never in double rows.
Distributions, lifestyle, and habitat: Throughout New Zealand. Intertidal to continental shelf in soft substrata, in rock crevices, holdfasts, and under embedded stones.
Abundance: Common.
Taxonomic note: There are many terebellid genera, but the distinctions between them are in some cases unsatisfactory, and again the New Zealand forms are little known, although work is in progress to improve the situation. The few species names previously used are particularly unreliable and confused. For example some New Zealand representatives of genus Amphitrite (three pairs of gills, and lateral lobes present), Lanice (tube opening with fan-shaped structure attached), and Streblosoma are perhaps undescribed species. Amphitrite rubra (Risso, 1826) is indeterminate and Longicarpus modestus (Quatrefages, 1865), with brown body and dichotomously branched gills, is perhaps the animal referred to by that name. A rocky shore species has been called Thelepus plagiostoma (Schmarda, 1861), but this is not correct as the name Terebella plagiostoma Schmarda, 1861 applies to a species originally described from New Zealand, which is indeed a Terebella species (branched gills, no lateral lobes), and not in the Thelepodinae. Terebella haplochaeta (Ehlers, 1904) is now believed to be a synonym of T. plagiostoma.
References: (Day & Hutchings 1979: p136-140), (Ehlers 1904: p59-61, P8.13-18), (Holthe 1986b: p164-172, f77-80), (Hutchings & Glasby 1986: p319-350, f1-12), (Hutchings & Glasby 1987: p217-250, f1-19), (Hutchings & Glasby 1988: p1-60, f1-22), (Hutchings & Smith 1997: p324-347, f1-10), (McHugh 1995: p405-429, f1-11), (McIntosh 1885: p446, 460-464, P27a.21, 28a.2-5,12, 51.3), (Morton & Miller 1973: p232-234, f80), (Schmarda 1861: p42, P24.197), (Whitley 1966: p94-96, P48).
(Full citations at Family pages literature cited list.)

Species in the guide: Rock Species: Neoleprea papilla | Pseudopista rostrata | Terebella plagiostoma
Sand Species: Terebella plagiostoma
Shell Species: None for this family.

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