Subject: Introduced Sabellariidae
12 December 1995
Artificial introduction of sabellariids
The discussions of artificial ("accidental") introduction of polychaete
species over the past few weeks re-awakened some dim, fuzzy, thoughts
I've had about a few of the disjunct, and really enigmatic, patterns of
distribution of certain sabellariid species that remain after much of
the "circumtropical," "bipolar," and "comsmopolitan" nonsense is
dealt with and heavily discounted.
Two examples have clear potential for providing some insight into
"artificially" introduced populations of sabellariids:
(1) _Sabellaria vulgaris_ Verrill, 1873, was first described from
off Massachusetts, where they are extremely abundant. Morphologic
-ally similar individuals are found in great numbers in nearshore
areas from Nova Scotia to Cape Kennedy, Florida. They are abundant
in Chesapeake Bay where the find the shells of _Crassostrea_ sp.
a good place to settle-down and raise a family (Curtis, 1973).
At a number of localities southward from Cape Hatteras, N. C., _S.
vulgaris_ occurs in clusters of sand tubes with what appear to be
_S. floridensis_ Hartman, 1944, first described from Englewood,
on the Gulf coast of Florida.
They occur in reduced numbers in colonies with _Phragmatopoma
caudata_ Kroeyer from Cape Kennedy to at least as far south on the
Atlantic coast as Walton Rocks, just south of Ft. Pierce Inlet
(Eckelbarger, 1975; 1976)).
Individuals with virtually the same external appearance are found
along the northern and western margins of the Gulf of Mexico
(Kirtley, 1994). Rioja (1946:196) described some examples from
Tecolutla, south of Cabo Rojo, Mexico, that may be closely
I haven't followed the idea very far but I understand that there
have been a number of cases of transplantation of oysters from
Chesapeake Bay, and perhaps other localities on the Atlantic Coast
to Louisiana and other Gulf of Mexico sites. Some of the _S.
gracilis_ Hartman, 1944, Oakland Airport, San Francisco Bay,
California) have opercular paleae that are suspiciously similar
in appearance to those seen in _S. vulgaris_ (See Kirtley,
1994:64:figs. 4.14.1 and 4.14.2). I've heard that "Chesapeake
Bay" oysters have been transplanted to that area in the past.
(2) _Sabellaria nanella_ Chamberlin, 1919, was first described
from San Francisco Bay. I am unable to recognize any significant
difference between the holotype and specimens collected from Punta
Santa Elena, Ecuador; Fortaleza, Ceara, Brazil; and La Pedrera,
Both of these cases may be possibly due to dispersal of sabellariids
that rode in on the hulls of infested ships, or pirogues, or canoasm
If anyone would like to share their ideas on this matter, and help
with the detective work (see Zibrowius' comments in this forum, this
date) I'd be pleased to hear from you...especially if you have some
Sabellariidae specimens I might see).
David W. Kirtley, Worm Detective
<dkirtley at igc.apc.org>
Vero Beach, Florida 32961-2713