Nereis vexillosa Grube, 1851
Common name(s): Banner sea-nymph, pile worm, sand worm, mussel worm, clam worm
Family Nereididae (formerly Nereidae)
|Nereis vexillosa, about 24 cm long, found at Padilla Bay.|
|(Photo by: Dave Cowles, July 2009 )|
How to Distinguish from Similar Species: The large, strap-shaped upper ligule in the posterior notopodia is very helpful in identifying this species. In Nereis grubei and N. neoneanthes the upper ligule of the posterior notopodia is not strap-shaped. Nereis wailesi has no paragnaths on the distal proboscis. Nereis brandti has no homogomphfalcigerous setae on the posterior notopodia and the dorsal ligule of the parapodia is large and leaflike.
Geographical Range: Alaska to San Diego; Pacific coast of Russia
Depth Range: Mid to low intertidal
Habitat: Intertidal with mussels and barnacles, on pilings, in sandy mud and cobbles, and in algal holdfasts.
Biology/Natural History: The large jaws on the distal portion (maxillary ring) of the eversible pharynx are used for seizing prey or tearing algae (Nereids usually eat algae). The smaller denticles on the proximal portion (oral ring) are used for burrowing.
Family Nereididae are called sea nymphs and are common polychaete worms in this area. Intertidal species are sometimes called ragworms. Nereids reproduce by releasing parts of their body as epitokes, which swim to the surface in mating swarms. Nereid epitokes are swollen with eggs or sperm, large parapodia, paddle-like chaetae, and large eyes. Day length is important in swarming of epitokes, and near-shore lights can affect the timing of swarms. In our area, spawning may occur shortly before midnight. The mating swarms release pheromones into the water which induces mating activity. The male epitokes swarm first and the females will not release their eggs unless in the presence of the males. The eggs are released into the water in the swarms, through ruptures in the body walls. In N. vexillosa the female releases an agglutinating material along with her eggs. Both male and female epitokes (heteronereids) die after spawning. The mass, with eggs inside, sinks to the bottom and grows to about the size of a bluish-green chicken egg. Larvae remain as plankton for hours to months. In the Pacific Northwest the mating swarms usually occur in late winter or spring.
This worm is often used for fishing bait. It squirms violently and everts
its proboscis and
jaws when captured, and may bite.
|Main Page||Alphabetic Index||Systematic Index||Glossary|
Johnson and Snook, 1955
Lamb and Hanby, 2005
O'Clair and O'Clair
Ricketts et al., 1985
General Notes and Observations: Locations,
abundances, unusual behaviors:
The prostomium (right) has two antennae and two large, two-segmented palps. The peristomium (segment behind the prostomium) has 4 pairs of tentacular cirri. This photo is a 3d composite made from a series of photos using a Keyence digital microscope. Photo by Dave Cowles, July 2009
This dorsal view of the posterior body shows the prominent, straplike ligules with attached terminal cirrus which are characteristic of this species.
This dorsal view of the parapodia shows the small aciculae with larger ventral and even larger dorsal lobes (ligules).
Most of the setae are compound (composed of more than one segment).
Closer examination by compound microscope would show this to be a homogomph falcigerous seta. A falciger is a seta in which the tip is comparatively blunt and curved. A homogomph seta is a compound seta in which the basal segment ends in a slightly expanded capsule, the two sides of which are of approximately equal height (as opposed to heterogomph, in which one side of the capsule is extended well out past the other).