About the Polychaetous Annelids Department | Natural History Museum of Los Angeles

A syllid polychaete, Myrianida pachycera, exhibiting one of the many forms of reproduction among sea worms. From the posterior end of the adult, buds of new individuals are produced that grow to small juveniles that eventually detach and crawl away. Photo by Leslie Harris.

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Philosophy of Biological Systematics: A course

A slideshow course outlining the fundamentals of the philsophical principles of biological systematics.

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Contact Polychaete Staff

J. Kirk Fitzhugh
Phone:  (213) 763-3233
FAX:       (213) 746-2999

Leslie H. Harris
Collections Manager
Phone:  (213) 763-3234
FAX:       (213) 746-2999

Mailing address:
Research & Collections
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
900 Exposition Blvd.
Los Angeles CA 90007

Why are Polychaete Collections Important?

Our understanding of how the oceans operate and affect our very existence is dependent upon understanding the diversity of life in all ocean habitats. Learn more >

Other Types of Worms Encountered in Southern California

In addition to sea worms, there are two very unusual types of worms you might discover in your yard or local streams. Learn more >


Polychaetous Annelids Collection

The class Polychaeta ("poly-keet-a") consists of a very diverse group of segmented worms (unlike round worms or flatworms, which are not segmented) that live primarily in ocean habitats. The closest relatives of polychaetes are the earthworms and leeches, which comprise the class Clitellata, all of which are members of the phylum Annelida. Among the over 80 plus polychaete families and more than 10,000 described species there is an amazing array of body forms and sizes. Although polychaetes are largely unknown to most people that visit the seashore, our understanding of the impacts of human activities on the oceans can be monitored accurately only through the careful study of these denizens of the deep.

The Polychaete Department, staffed by a Curator and Collections Manager, maintains active research programs ranging from basic polychaete systematics, to the study of evolutionary relationships within particular polychaete families, to investigations into philosophy of biology that impinge on how evolutionary biology operates within the scope of the nature of science.

New collections are routinely acquired, such that the collection is a near-constantly expanding resource utilized by researchers from around the world.  In addition to the loan of specimens, the department provides space to accommodate short-term visitors, who provide valuable opportunities for collaboration.

 From: Haeckel, E. 1904. Kunstformen der Natur.

Polychaete Collection Staff

J. Kirk Fitzhugh, Ph.D., Curator

Phone:  (213) 763-3233

FAX:       (213) 746-2999

E-mail:     kfitzhug@nhm.org

Leslie H. Harris, Collections Manager

Phone:  (213) 763-3234

FAX:       (213) 746-2999

E-mail:    lharris@nhm.org

Southern California Polychaete Spotlight

<em>Proceraea hanssoni</em> Nygren, 2003

Living in Strange Places

With distinctive black stripes across the body, it seems as if this lovely polychaete, Proceraea hanssoni Nygren, 2003, would be a well-known member of the local fauna. At less than one-half inch in length, and living in burrows inside the sponge Halichondria, they weren't discovered until the 1990s. A member of the Syllidae, the species was originally collected from Washington State but has also been found in Southern California. Like many Syllidae, P. hanssoni feed on the sponges they inhabit. But, they also protect the sponges from other predators by emerging from their burrows to bite invaders. Photo by Leslie H. Harris.