Australian Biological Resources Study

Australian Faunal Directory




Regional Maps


Compiler and date details

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

24 July 2003


Nephtyidae have compact bodies, somewhat rectangular in cross-section, and exhibit a distinctive sinuous swimming/crawling movement. Nephtyidae occur widely in soft sediment communities from shallow sands and estuaries to shelf and slope habitats. They may be very abundant. They are strongly muscular, active polychaetes that are able to burrow and swim rapidly. Nephtyids are apparently all predators and are known to consume a variety of small benthic invertebrates including other polychaetes, oligochaetes, crustaceans and molluscs.

Figures of 4 genera and 18 species were given by Beesley et al. (2000: App. 1) for representation of the family in Australian waters, and 5 genera and 130 species worldwide (Dixon-Bridges et al. 2014). Of the 18 species recorded from Australia, 12 or 13 are endemic.

Taxonomic problems remain at the genus level, and as discussed by Rainer & Kaly (1988) the assignment of some species to the genera Aglaophamus and Nephtys is uncertain.

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

Database Notes

proof read against Day & Hutchings 1979 by RW
new species from Rainer & Hutchings (1977) and Rainer & Kaly (1988) added by RTJ
checked against DELTA CD, 2003 by RTJ



General features. Body shape vermiform; segments numerous (more than about 15); regionation absent. Pygidium simple ring or cone. Pygidial appendages present; single medial cirrus.
Head & head structures. Head discrete and compact, dorsal to mouth. Prostomium pentagonal to quadrangular (sharply angular). Eyes absent, or present; one pair, or two pairs; situated on prostomium, or situated on anterior segments (subdermally); without lenses. Prostomial antennae present; paired arising anterolaterally (rarely absent); smooth. Palps paired (resemble antennae); unarticulated; ventrolateral. Nuchal organs indistinct paired dorsolateral patches. Peristomial ring absent.
Pharynx & pharyngeal apparatus. Foregut a muscular axial pharynx; with one pair of lateral jaws; fang-like; surface with soft papillae; papillae in distinct rows; distal ring of papillae present (rarely absent).
Body segments & parapodia. First segment chaetigerous (dorsal and ventral cirri may be slightly enlarged). First chaetiger with both notochaetae and neurochaetae. Parapodia biramous with prominent parapodial lobes; notopodial lobes represented by at least one chaetal lobe; neuropodial lobes represented by at least one chaetal lobe. Interramal fleshy process present, cirrus-like (recurved inward or outward). Dorsal cirri more-or-less cirriform. Ventral cirri present, cirriform or tapering. Branchiae present; arise from parapodia (attached ventrally on notopodium and extending into interramal space); occur on at least some chaetigerous segments; recurved cirrus (rarely papilliform).
Chaetae. Notochaetae present. Aciculae present; in both dorsal and ventral positions (=noto- and neuroaciculae). Capillary chaetae hair-like, or sharply bent; smooth, or hirsute-serrate; not chambered or hollow, or distinctly chambered. Forked chaetae absent, or present; lyrate type; tines more or less equal in length. Spines absent. 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.

Clark, R.B. & Clark, M.E. 1960. The ligamentary system and the segmental musculature of Nephtys. Quarterly Journal of Microscopical Science 101: 149-176

Dixon-Bridges, K., Gladstone, W. & Hutchings, P. 2014. One new species of Micronephthys Friedrich, 1939 and one new species of Nephtys Cuvier, 1817 (Polychaeta: Phyllodocida: Nephtyidae) from eastern Australia with notes on Aglaophamus australiensis (Fauchald, 1965) and a key to all Australian species. Zootaxa 3872(5): 513-540 [513]

Fauchald, K. 1977. The polychaete worms. Definitions and keys to the orders, families and genera. Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. Science Series 28: 1-188 [96-97]

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

Grube, A.-E. 1850. Die Familien der Anneliden. Archiv für Naturgeschichte 16: 249-364

Hilbig, B. 1997. Family Nephtyidae Grube, 1850. pp. 317-350 in Blake, J.A., Hilbig, B. & Scott, P.H. (eds). The Annelida. Part 2 Oligochaeta and Polychaeta: Phyllodocida (Phyllodocidae to Paralacydoniidae). Taxonomic Atlas of the Benthic Fauna of the Santa Maria Basin and the Western Santa Barbara Channel Santa Barbara, California : Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Vol. 4.

Rainer, S.F. & Kaly, U.L. 1988. Nephtyidae (Polychaeta: Phyllodocida) of Australia: new species from the North West Shelf, and a key to Australian species. Journal of Natural History 22: 685-703

Ravara, A., Cunha, M. & Pleijel, F. 2010. Nephtyidae (Annelida, Polychaeta) from southern Europe. Zootaxa 2682: 1-68

Rouse, G.W. & Fauchald, K. 1997. Cladistics and polychaetes. Zoologica Scripta 26: 139-204

Wilson, R.S. 2000. Family Nephtyidae. pp. 136-137 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.


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)
22-Oct-2014 NEPHTYIDAE 17-Oct-2014 MODIFIED ABRS
17-Oct-2023 27-Oct-2010 MODIFIED
12-Feb-2010 (import)