Body size range

H.A. ten Hove H.A.tenHove at
Sun Apr 3 14:53:18 EST 2005

Dear Craig and colleague annelideans,

Difficult questions are the cause of a long reaction time, at least with me, 
but Geoff's question shook me from my lethargy. Can't tell you about 
polychaetes in general, just that the size range is enormous. Even for the 
calcareous tubeworms (family Serpulidae, which I have been studying for some 
40 years) I cannot tell you precisely, but with a margin of error of 10% I 
would guess that the following two taxa form the range in serpulids: 
Josephella marenzelleri Caullery & Mesnil, 1896 (circum (sub) tropical, 
temperate): width up to 0.015 mm, length up to 2 mm; Protula superba Moore, 
1909 (Gulf of California, California): width up to 1.6 cm, length up to 10 cm. 
I would expect that some interstitial polychaetes even might be smaller than 
Josephella and Eunicids definitely can be larger than Protula, but maybe these 
examples will evoke some more reactions (visible to a larger public). Have no 
idea if there are general geographical trends, never looked at the family from 
that angle, but my impression is that the larger species occur in the tropics 
(with the exception of Protula superba) such as the Indo-west Pacific Protula 
bispiralis (Savigny, 1820) and several species of the Spirobranchus giganteus-

Size at least partly is a function of age, longevity is enormously diverging, 
from a couple of months in some small spirorbids (a few mm at best) to about 
35 years in the up to 7 cm large Spirobranchus giganteus-complex (some more 
examples in Kupriyanova, E.K. & E. Nishi & H.A. ten Hove & A.V. Rzhavsky, 
2001.- Life-history patterns in serpulimorph polychaetes: ecological and 
evolutionary perspectives. Oceanogr. Mar. Biol. Ann. Rev. 39: 1-101).  


dr. Harry A. ten Hove
Zoological Museum
University of Amsterdam
Mauritskade 57
P.O.B. 94766, 1090 GT Amsterdam
H.A.tenHove at 

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