||Up to 3.9 inches
||Polychaetes are most common in marine environments world
wide. They are typically found in or on the sediments throughout the Chesapeake Bay and
its tributaries. Some polychaetes live in stabilized burrows or tubes within the sediments
while others are free moving and crawl on top of the sediments.
||A majority of polychaetes reproduce sexually or asexually
and a few are hermaphroditic. Those polychaetes that reproduce sexually
require the males and females of the species to come together to mate. This can be quite
tricky for sessile polychaetes. In order to solve this problem, the
bodys hind end breaks off and swims to the surface of the water to spawn. The head end remains in the burrow and later
regenerates a new tail. Species that have the ability to reproduce asexually do so by
||There are two main feeding categories polychaetes fall
into: "passive" (filter and deposit feeding) or "active" (grazing,
scavenging, parasitizing or predation). Some filter and deposit feeding polychaetes have
large spirals of feather-like tentacles that they expand out of their tube and into the
water to "catch" food. Other filter and deposit feeding polychaetes move water,
and prey, through their burrows by moving their parapodia. Other polychaetes have a more active lifestyle and
feed by grazing, scavenging, parasitizing or are predatory. Predatory species have
piercing jaws in their throats. The muscular throat can turn inside out to project from
the mouth, allowing the jaws to capture prey. Species that use this method also have
poison glands that deliver a toxic bite to their prey.
||Polychaetes are eaten by fishes such as hybrid striped bass (Morone
saxatilis and Morone chrysops) and winter flounder (Pleuronectes americanus),
starfish such as the pink sea star (Pisaster brevispinus), sea urchins, lobsters,
skates such as thorny skate (Raja radiata), crabs such as the horseshoe crab (Limulus
polyphemus) and shore birds such as the surf scoter (Melanitta perspicillata).
||In general, polychaetes are marine worms with segmented bodies with each
segment having a pair of parapodia and setae. They live in or on the sediments in shore line
environments and estuaries. Free moving species move by stroking their
parapodia in waves toward the head, similar to how caterpillars move. Several species are
sessile and live in burrows or tubes.
||Polychaetes in the genus Eunice reproduce by
breaking off their hind ends but only for a few days during a particular moon phase. The
females of this genus come out at night and have the unique ability to attract males by
producing their own light! In Bermuda and the West Indies, a special festival is held to
harvest the hind ends of these polychaetes. In fact, festival participants say eating the
hind ends is a delicacy!