[Systematics and Taxonomy]

Worldwide Polychaete Family List

Compiled by Geoffrey B. Read (April 1996).

An alphabetical list of all known families, their current status, with an indication of salient features or affinities, and also example genera. A few families, for example Arabellidae, Polyodontidae, have comparatively recently changed names or been subsumed into other families, and these old names are included here for easy cross-reference. Major families (20 or more species) are tagged with a double asterisk.

An on-going development. Suggestions for corrections and updates are welcome. Over time links perhaps can be added for each family to the published reviews, to the evaluation of current status - validity, synonymy, etc, to the researchers currently interested in each family, and to recent publications.


Obscure forms with palps. Affiliations unknown and only one genus, Aberranta.

Acoetidae **
Dorsal scales and spinning glands, and may be in thick-walled tubes. (= Polyodontidae). Panthalis, Polyodontes.

Acrocirridae **
Cirratulid-like (but unrelated) with frontal palps. Acrocirrus, Macrochaeta, Flabelligella.

Alciopidae **
Slender phyllodocid-like pelagic forms with giant eyes. Vanadis, Alciopa.

Ampharetid-like but with posterior notosetae. Specialists around deep-sea hydrothermal vents. Alvinella, Paralvinella.

Ampharetidae **
Terebellida group, no posterior notosetae, usually with simple, transversely-arranged gills. Ampharete, Melinna, Auchenoplax and many, many others.

Amphinomidae **
Spiny predators with gills in tufts. Amphinome, Chloeia.

Proposed to be absorbed into the pilargids. Commensals in bivalves. Only one genus known, Antonbruunia.

Aphroditidae **
Felt-covered scale worms. Includes Palmyridae. Aphrodita, Laetmonice, Palmyra.

Spionida-group sand dwellers but orbiniid/paraonid-like features. Palps and papillated ventral lobes. Only one genus known, Apistobranchus.

Absorbed into Oenonidae. Arabella.

Amphinomid-like hydrothermal vent associates. Only one genus known, Archinome.

Arenicolidae **
The lugworms, large sediment-eating burrowers. Arenicola, Abarenicola.

Absorbed into maldanids. Boguea.

Proposed to be absorbed into the syllids. Parasites on ampharetids. Only known species is Calamyzas amphictenicola.

Freshwater shell-burrowers currently transferred into the sabellids. Caobangia.

Capitellidae **
Earthworm-like burrowers. Capitella, Heteromastus.

Chaetopteridae **
Tube-dwelling, mucous-net filter feeders, with setiger-four cutting spines. Chaetopterus, Phyllochaetopterus.

Chrysopetalidae **
Flattened notosetae in transverse dorsal fans. Chrysopetalum, Paleanotus.

Cirratulidae **
Long filamentous gills and palps. Cirratulus, Chaetozone.

Single filamentous dorsal 'palp' (a branchia) on an anterior segment. Cossura.

Small grub-like dwellers in sediment pores. Cirratulid-like gill filaments. Ctenodrilus, Raricirrus.

Absorbed into Dorvilleidae. Small aberrant ciliated worms lacking setae. Dwellers in spaces between sediment grains. Dinophilus.

Arctic worms formerly in Dinophilidae. Minute, with posterior adhesive structures. Dwellers in spaces between sediment grains. Diurodrilus.

Dorvilleidae **
Eunicida group with multiple jaw elements. Dorvillea, Ophryotrocha, and perhaps Iphitime.

Dorsal scales with marginal lappets. Eulepethus.

Eunicidae **
Up to five antennae, jaw maxilla pincer-like. Eunice, Marphysa, Palola.

Euphrosinidae **
Amphinomid-like with rows of setae and branchiae. Euphrosine.

Flabelligeridae **
Papillated body and with cross-barred setae. Flabelligera, Brada.

Grub-like with simple setae, related to the flabelligerids. Fauveliopsis.

Erected for an obscure planktonic flabelligerid-like species Flota flabelligera.

Glyceridae **
Cylindrical with conical prostomium and four jaws. Glycera, Hemipodus.

Goniadidae **
Glycerid-like with anterior parapodia uniramous, multiple jaw- pieces, and proboscis chevron structures. Goniada, Glycinde.

Lumbrinerid-like, with orbiniid-like parapodia. Hartmaniella.

Absorbed into Flabelligeridae.

Hesionidae **
Nereidid-group with reduced notopodia. Hesione, Podarke.

See Longosomatidae.

Small aberrant eunicid-like parasites in crustacea branchial chambers. Histriobdella, Stratiodrilus.

Eunicid-like parasite on eel fins. Monotypic family for Ichthyotomus sanguinarius.

Proposed to be absorbed into the Dorvilleidae. Residents in crustacean branchial chambers. Iphitime

Slender pelagic forms. Isopilus.

An obscure family, perhaps with hesionid affinities. Short body and an unarmed proboscis. Lacydonia.

Acrocirridae affinities? Monotypic for the highly obscure Laetmonecticus nigrum.

Proposed to be absorbed into the syllids. Levidorum.

Short pelagic forms with phyllodocid affinities. Lopadorrhynchus.

Filiform anterior gills (max 8) and abdominal segments unusually long, with setae in rings; posterior segments short, chaetae few, curved spines. Also known as Heterospionidae. Heterospio.

Lumbrineridae **
Eunicida group without notopodia and with reduced dorsal head appendages or none. Lumbrineris, Ninoe, Lysarete.

Proposed to be absorbed into Lumbrineridae (Lysarete) and Oenonidae (Oenone).

Magelonidae **
Shovel-like head and papillose palp pair. Magelona.

Maldanidae **
Bamboo worms. Maldane, Axiothella, Rhodine.

Disk-like external and internal commensals or parasites of echinoderms, sometimes divided into six further (near monotypic) families, sometimes removed from Polychaeta as a separate class of annelids. Myzostomum.

Deep-sea bivalve commensals or parasites with possible pilargid affinities. Nautiliniella, Miura.

Nephtyidae **
Segments rectangular in cross-section with interramal cirri. Papillose jawed proboscis. Nephtys, Aglaophamus.

Nereididae **
Rags worms, the best-known polychaete family. Denticles on a jawed proboscis. Nereis, Platynereis, Perinereis.

Nerillidae **
Dwellers in spaces between sediment grains. Head with small palps, antennae, and segmental cirri present. Nerilla.

Oenonidae **
Lumbrinerid-like with long maxillary carriers. Includes arabellids and some former lysaretids. Arabella, Drilonereis, Oenone.

Onuphidae **
Eunicida-group with the five antennae in staggered positions and with basal annulations. Onuphis, Hyalinoecia.

Opheliidae **
Torpedo or grub-shaped, with lateral gills and sometimes lateral segmental eyes. Ophelia, Armandia, Euzonus.

Orbiniidae **
Thread-like, sediment-eating burrowers with dorsal gills and crenulate capillaries. Orbinia, Scoloplos.

Oweniidae **
Terminal mouth with/without frilly tentacles. Multiple rows of tiny claw-like hooks. Owenia, Myriochele.

Monotypic family for Palmyra aurifera, now absorbed into Aphroditidae

Nephtyid-like, formerly in Lacydoniinae when in Phyllodocidae. Only one genus known, Paralacydonia.

Paraonidae **
Spionid-like (but unrelated) with or without a single antenna, with gills, and without palps. Paraonis, Aricidea.

Small grub-like dwellers in spaces between sediment grains. Stygocapitella, Parergodrilus.

Pectinariidae **
Conical-tubed sand-mason worms, also known as Amphictenidae. Pectinaria, Petta.

See Pholoidae.

Phyllodocidae **
Active predators with leaf-like dorsal cirri, notopodia otherwise reduced. Phyllodoce, Eteone and many others.

Minute scale worms. Dorsal scales may be ringed. Pholoe, Pholoides (= Peisidice) for which Peisidicidae and Pholoididae have been used. Pholoe has also been placed in Sigalionidae.

Pilargidae **
Nereidid-like with simple setae. Proposed to be transferred into Hesionidae (Licher & Westheide 1994). Pilargis, Ancistrosyllis.

First segment projects forward of head. Pisione.

Monotypic family for Poeobius meseres. Pelagic, sac-like, no setae, perhaps with flabelligerid affinities.

Fragile spionid-like forms with stiff parapodial lobes and multiple simple setal types. Poecilochaetus.

Renamed the Acoetidae (q.v.)

Polynoidae **
Scale worms, flattened, jaw-bearing predators with overlapping dorsal scales. Polynoe, Harmothoe, Lepidonotus and many others.

Aberrant elongate nematode-like forms without setae, and with a stiff frontal tentacle pair. Polygordius.

Phyllodocid-like, slender, pelagic. Monotypic family for Pontodora pelagica.

Protodrilidae **
Aberrant minute forms without setae, with flexible tentacle pair near-frontal, but separated. Dwellers in spaces between sediment grains. Protodrilus.

Formerly in Protodrilidae. Frontal tentacles arise jointly, Protodriloides.

Small grub-like forms with long dorsal cirri and posterior uncini. Dwellers in spaces between sediment grains. Psammodrilus.

Problematical oligochaete-like forms. Two species in Questa and Novaquesta.

Sabellariidae **
Sand-reef-building colonial terebellid-group worms with tube- blocking crown of paleae and reflected unsegmented narrow tail region. Sabellaria, Phragmatopoma.

Sabellidae **
Fan worms with crown of filtering radioles, no operculum. Sabella, Potamilla.

Absorbed into sabellids. Without radioles, with spines. Sabellonga disjuncta.

Paired anterior tentacles, segments with parapodial stumps and needle-like setae. Dwellers in spaces between sediment grains Saccocirrus.

Scalibrematidae **
Maggot-like or anteriorly inflated with small T-shaped prostomium. Scalibregma, Hyboscolex.

Sigalionidae **
Scale worms with dorsal scales and compound neurosetae. Sigalion, Psammolyce, Sthenelais.

Serpulidae **
Fan worms with calcareous tubes and ornate opercular structures. Often colonial. Serpula, Pomatoceros, Hydroides.

Spionidae **
Head with caruncle and palps. Segments with dorsal gills and hooded simple hooks. Spio, Polydora, Boccardia, Prionospio.

Spirorbidae **
Asymmetrical small fan worms with coiled calcareous tubes cemented on algae and rock. Spirorbis.

Sphaerodoridae **
Dorsal rows of spherical tubercles. Sphaerodorum.

Oval sponge ectoparasites with dorsal ridge rows. Spinther.

Plump, with posterior chitinised shield and anterior spines. Sternaspis scutata.

Absorbed into Parergodrilidae.

Syllidae **
Slender nereidid-group forms with three long thin antennae and conspicuous dorsal cirri, reduced or absent ventral cirri. Syllis, Odontosyllis, Autolytus, Exogone, Sphaerosyllis.

Terebellidae **
Numerous elongate mouth tentacles, up to three pairs of anterior gills, often branched. Neurosetal uncini only posteriorly. Terebella, Polycirrus, Amphitrite, Lanice.

Tomopteridae **
Flattened pelagic forms with long segment-two cirri. Tomopteris.

Trichobranchidae **
Terebellid-like with long-handled hooks. Terebellides.

Spionid-like with setiger-three spines. Trochochaeta (= Disoma)

Transparent pelagic forms with tapering bodies and foliaceous segmental cirri. Sagitella, Typhloscolex, Travisiopsis.

Spionid-like deep-sea family with anterior capillaries like a cephalic cage. Uncispio, Uncopherusa.

Obscure aberrant pelagic form with no head structure. Yndolacia.

Copyright © 1996, Geoff Read. This page contains original material. If you redistribute it please acknowledge the source in any publication, online or otherwise. Suggested form for print citation is:

Read, Geoffrey B. [gread@actrix.gen.nz] "Worldwide Polychaete Family List" [http://biodiversity.uno.edu/~worms/pc-fam.html] Current date (April 1996).

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