Australian Biological Resources Study

Australian Faunal Directory

Aphrodite sp.

Aphrodite sp.


Regional Maps


Sea Mice

Compiler and date details

Jan 2011 - P. Hutchings & M. Yerman, Australian Museum, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

10 July 2003


Aphroditids are typically large and highly conspicuous members of the benthic fauna, but do not occur in dense populations. These slow-moving scaleworms are commonly called 'sea mice' because of a felt-like dorsal surface that is formed by fine silky chaetae with entrapped detritus which gives it a furry appearance. This 'felt' is often highly iridescent. They are predominantly subtidal, with most species occurring in deep water. Unfortunately, the Australian deep water fauna are not well known. Although many aphroditid species have overlapping geographical distributions, we have virtually no information on the habitats in which these species occur (although some species have sand or mud entangled amongst their chaetae, perhaps indicating habitat preferences). They are slow moving, most species are subtidal and some occur in deep water. They are active carnivores with numerous head appendages that are presumably used to hunt their prey.

Figures of 5 genera and 18 species were given by Beesley et al. (2000: App. 1) for representation of the family in Australian waters, and 7 genera and 75 species worldwide. A recent revision of the genus Palmyra by Watson-Russell (1989) placed this genus in the family Aphroditidae. It was considered to be a member of Chysopetalidae by Day (1967) and subsequently, by Fauchald (1977) as belonging to the family Palmyridae.

See Hutchings (2000) for detailed treatment of the family.

Database Notes

proof read against Day & Hutchings 1979 by RW;
updated from Hutchings & McRae, 1993 by RTJ
checked against DELTA CD 2003 by RTJ



General features. Body shape vermiform, or ovate to rounded; dorsoventrally flattened; segments numerous (more than about 15); regionation absent. Epidermis papillate, irregularly arranged papillae (ventrally). Pygidium simple ring or cone. Pygidial appendages present; one pair of cirri.
Head & head structures. Head discrete and compact, dorsal to mouth. Prostomium rounded to oval (anteriorly truncate); anteriorly without deep incisions, cirri or palpodes. Facial tubercle present. Eyes present; two pairs; situated on prostomium; compound with lenses. Prostomial antennae present; single arising anteromedially; smooth, or consist of basal ceratophore and distal ceratostyle. Palps paired; unarticulated; ventrolateral. Nuchal organs indistinct paired dorsolateral patches. Peristomial ring absent.
Pharynx & pharyngeal apparatus. Foregut a muscular axial pharynx; with two pairs of jaws; plate-like; distal ring of papillae present.
Body segments & parapodia. First segment chaetigerous (dorsal and ventral cirri enlarged and elongated). First chaetiger without external chaetae, or with notochaetae only; anteriorly directed and wrapping around head. Parapodia biramous with prominent parapodial lobes; notopodial lobes represented by at least one chaetal lobe; neuropodial lobes represented by at least one chaetal lobe. Dorsal cirri modified as elytra (may include cirriform ones as well) (except Palmyra). Elytra smooth or ornamented, without concentric rings; occur on alternate chaetigers throughout the body. Ventral cirri present, cirriform or tapering. Branchiae absent.
Chaetae. Notochaetae present. Aciculae present; in both dorsal and ventral positions (=noto- and neuroaciculae). Capillary chaetae hair-like; smooth. Silky fibre-like chaetae absent, or present. Paleae absent, or present, forming rosettes across dorsum (Palmyra only). Spines present in most or all chaetigers; in both notopodia and neuropodia; slightly curved and more-or-less smooth, or with series of rings or half-rings of spinelets, or harpoon or arrow-shaped with reverse barbs. Hooks absent.
Tube & burrow. Tube absent or unconsolidated. Burrow traces absent.

The above description was generated from: 'C.J. Glasby & K. Fauchald (2002 onwards). POLiKEY. An information system for polychaete families and higher taxa: Version 1: September 2002.'
(See ABRS website: Online Resources: Polikey, for Version 2, released June 2003)


General References

Beesley, P.L., Ross, G.J.B. & Glasby, C.J. (eds) 2000. Polychaetes & Allies: The Southern Synthesis. Fauna of Australia Vol. 4A Polychaeta, Myzostomida, Pogonophora, Echiura, Sipuncula. Melbourne : CSIRO Publishing Vol. 4 Part A xii 1-465 pp.

Darboux, J.G. 1899. Recherches sur les Aphroditiens. Travaux de l'Institut de Zoologie de l'Université de Montpellier et de la Station maritime (Zoologique) de Cette, series 2 mem 6: 1-276

Day, J.H. 1967. A Monograph on the Polychaeta of Southern Africa. London : Publication of the British Museum (Natural History) Part 1 Pt 1, Erranta pp. 1-458; Pt 2, Sedentaria pp. 459-878.

Fauchald, K. & Rouse, G. 1997. Polychaete systematics: Past and present. Zoologica Scripta 26: 71-138

Fauvel, P. 1923. Faune de France: Polychètes errantes. Librairie de la Faculté des Sciences. Paris : Paul Lechevalier Vol. 5 488 pp.

Fordham, M.G.C. 1925. Aphrodita aculeata. L.M.B.C. Memoir 27. Proceedings and Transactions of the Liverpool Biological Society 40: 121-216

Goodrich, E.S. 1945. The study of nephridia and genital ducts since 1895. Quarterly Journal of Microscopical Science 86: 113-392

Hanson, J. 1949. Observations on the branchial crown of Serpulidae (Annelida: Polychaeta). Quarterly Journal of Microscopical Science 90: 221-233

Hutchings, P.A. 2000. Family Aphroditidae. pp. 117-121 in Beesley, P.L., Ross, G.J.B. & Glasby, C.J. (eds). Polychaetes & Allies: The Southern Synthesis. Fauna of Australia Vol. 4A Polychaeta, Myzostomida, Pogonophora, Echiura, Sipuncula. Melbourne : CSIRO Publishing Vol. 4 Part A xii 1-465 pp.

Rullier, F. 1951. Étude morphologique, histologique et physiologique de l'organe nucale chez les Annélides Polychètes sédentaires. Annales de l'Institut Océanographique 27: 51-56

Storch, V. 1968. Zur vergleichenden Anatomie der segmentalen Muskelsysteme und zur Verwandtschaft der Polychaeten-Familien. Zeitschrift für die Morphologie und Ökologie die Tiere 63: 251-342

Watson Russell, C. 1989. Revision of Palmyra Savigny (Polychaeta: Aphroditidae) and redescription of Palmyra aurifera. The Beagle, Records of the Museums and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory 6: 35-53


History of changes

Note that this list may be incomplete for dates prior to September 2013.
Published As part of group Action Date Action Type Compiler(s)
17-Oct-2023 07-Oct-2010 MODIFIED
17-Oct-2023 07-Sep-2010 MODIFIED
12-Feb-2010 (import)