[Annelida] amber waves of polychaetes

Floyd, Christopher B POA via annelida%40net.bio.net (by Christopher.B.Floyd from usace.army.mil)
Fri Jul 25 16:45:50 EST 2008

While running a little submersible camera in Akutan Bay (about 54.13^N,
165.82^W, in the eastern Aleutian Islands) last month for a harbor study, my
colleagues and I came across some impressive fields of what I suspect is a
tubiculous polychaete.  I am not a marine biologist, and have only a passing
(if admiring) acquaintance with Polychaeta.

I've attached several screen-shots from the digitized video.  The resolution
is extremely poor, but we could see beds (sometimes very dense, sometimes
sparse) of dark brownish tubes, about 1 cm in diameter and extending maybe
10-20 cm from the seafloor.  The tubes seemed to be semi-rigid but resilient,
and there is a hint of a small pale-to-reddish tuft emerging from the top.
We viewed the masses of tubes over hundreds of meters of transect, in waters
roughly 25 to 8 meters deep, but don't have a real idea over how wide an area
the field covered.  Unfortunately, we didn't have a dredge with us, and
couldn't grab a sample.

Questions:  Are these polychaetes we're looking at here?  Assuming these are
polychaetes, is it possible to say anything about the taxonomy of these
fellows (even just down to order or family) based on the gross information
available in the photos (size, living habit, etc.)?  They resemble a blurry
photograph I've found of a wad of Alaskan polychaetes brought up in a dredge,
identified as 'Sabella sp.'.  I had assumed such tubiculous polychaetes were
primarily infaunal (based on the few illustrations I'd seen), and not
extending so far above the sediment as seen in the photos and video.

Thanks much for any guidance or insight you might be able to provide,

Chris Floyd
Environmental Resources
US Army Corps of Engineers
Anchorage, Alaska

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