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Polychaete fluorescence

Petersen, Mary Elizabeth MEPetersen at zmuc.ku.dk
Tue Dec 2 15:21:04 EST 2003

Dear Charles,

I don't know of anything that has been done with fluorescence in polychaetes 
(= bristleworms), but a number of polychaetes in different families are known 
to bioluminesce, especially when they are sexually mature.  

Species of the tube worm Chaetopterus have been studied in detail, as have 
many syllids, scaleworms and various pelagic polychaetes. I have personally 
seen mature cirratulids of the genus Caulleriella bioluminesce, and the 
phenomenon is also known from other families.  

The Ward & Fauchald 1997 Polychaete Bibliography gives 5 papers if one 
searches for bioluminescence under Keywords, but especially for Chaetopterus, 
I know there are more than that. The url is: 

I suspect a lot of polychaetes are fluorescent, but there does not seem to be 
any literature on the phenomenon, or if so, it is not that visible. You might 
try to do something about that! I think it could be a most interesting paper. 
Thanks for sharing your findings.  

Best wishes,


Dr. Mary E. Petersen
Research Associate, Polychaeta
Zoological Museum, University of Copenhagen
Universitetsparken 15, DK-2100 Copenhagen Ø, Denmark
Tel +45-35 32 10 67 - Fax +45-35 32 10 10
E-mail: mepetersen at zmuc.ku.dk


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