, Volume 96, Issue 1–2, pp 113–167 | Cite as

On the structure and homologues of the anterior end of the polychaete families sabellidae and serpulidae

  • Lars Orrhage


The nature and homologues of the appendages of the anterior end of the polychaete families Sabellidae and Serpulidae have long been discussed. The main purpose of the present investigation, in which seven sabellid and eight serpulid species are studied, is to contribute towards the solution of these problems. At the same time, however, the present study, within its limited range, aims to enlarge our knowledge of the anatomy of the polychaetes in general. Such a knowledge, it is argued, is a prerequisite for further consideration of the phylogeny of the Polychaeta.

As shown in many earlier papers, the architecture of the cephalic nervous system and the innervation of the organs and appendages of the anterior end of polychaetes constitute reliable instruments for elucidating the morphological significance of these structures. In the present paper, consequently, extra consideration is given to descriptions of the central nervous system of the sabellids and serpulids studied.

The integumental depression found in front of and below the brain of all the sabellids and serpulids here studied is described by the term “dorsal pit”. It is concluded that the dorsal pit within each family in all probability represents a homologous structure, but it is in no way proven that the dorsal pit of the sabellids is equivalent to that of the serpulids.

Some earlier literature maintains that paired antennae [antennes de première paire in Binard and Jennerś (1928) terminology] are found in some sabellids and serpulids. In the present paper it is maintained that these structures must instead be interpreted as nuchal organs. Such organs are found in all the sabellid and serpulid species here studied.

The Pruvot-Meyer theory which claims that the joint pore of the thoracic nephridia of the “serpulimorphic” families is equivalent to the nuchal organ of other polychaetes is shown to be without foundation, and it is consequently rejected.

The histology, vascularization, and innervation of the branchial crown and the appendages of the dorsal lip of the mouth of the species investigated are described. It is concluded that the branchial crown and some (but not all) appendages of the dorsal lip are equivalent to the palps (when present) of the “spiomorphic”, the “drilomorphic”, and the “errant” polychaetes.

The appendages of the dorsal lip of the mouth, in most faunistic literature called palps, are found to represent structures of three different kinds and origins: (a) branchial radioli which have become separated from the crown and have fused with the lip, (b) branchial pinnulae which have undergone a similar process of dislocation, and (c) new formations from the walls of the mouth cavity. It is proposed that in comparative-anatomical works these appendages should be called (a) lip-associated radioli, (b) lip-associated pinnulae, and (c) outgrowths of the dorsal lip respectively. As a joint and anatomically neutral term to be used in faunas and descriptions of the outer morphology, the expression “appendages of the dorsal lip” or, more briefly, “(dorsal) lip processes” is proposed.

The interrelationships of the Sabellariidae, the Sabellidae, and the Serpulidae are discussed, as is the taxonomic subdivision of the last two families. In agreement with some earlier authors although contrary to others it is thereby maintained that:
  1. 1)

    the suborder Serpulimorpha Hatschek (1893) (inclucing sabellariids, sabellids, and serpulids) does not constitute a natural systematic unit;

  2. 2)

    the sabellids and serpulids, although markedly different in many respects (thoracic membrane, operculum, branchial skeleton), are probably closely related to each other. Earlier arguments supporting this view are corroborated by data on the dorsal lip processes and the architecture of the brain of the two families;

  3. 3)

    Rioja's (1923) division (based on setal structures) of the Sabellidae into the three subfamilies Sabellinae, Fabriciinae, and Myxicolinae is supported by the anatomical data emphasized in the present paper; and

  4. 4)

    within the Serpulidae the genera Apomatus and Protula should be referred to the subfamily Filograninae [as proposed by Rioja (1923), followed, among others, by Fauvel (1927), and Hartmann-Schröder (1971)] and not to the Serpulinae, [as maintained by Hartman (1959) and Fauchald (1977)]. Again, the view presented by the present author is founded on anatomical data (the morphological value of the dorsal lip processes of the genera in question).



Anatomical Data Early Argument Neutral Term Mouth Cavity Branchial Crown 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



anterior association commissure


anterior coil of drcc


anterior part of mcg


axis of supporting tissue of lap


axis of supporting tissue of lar


axis of supporting tissue of pinnula


axis of supporting tissue of radiolus


anterior tract of aac


anterior tract of dac


anterior tract of vac


basal fold of radiolus


basal groove of radiolus


blood vessel of lap


blood vessel of lar


blood vessel of the most dorsal radiolus


blood vessel of pinnula


blood vessel of radiolus


blood vessels of radioli


circum-oesophageal connective(s)


cerebral ganglion




commissure of nac and nmr


common nerve of oral filaments


curved tract of ndbv


dorsal association commissure


dorsal commissure of drcc


dorsal commissure of vrcc


dorsal ganglion


dorsal lip


dorsal nerve from dcdr


diffuse nervous lamina of nuchal organ


dorsal pit


dorsal root of cc


dorsal root of nbc


ganglion of mnbc


lip-associated pinnula


lip-associated radiolus


large branchial blood vessel


lateral cerebral ganglion


lateral ganglion of ndbv


lateral groove of radiolus


lateral ganglion of vac


left longitudinal association tract


lateral nerve of branchial crown


lateral nuchal nerve


lateral nerve of segment 1


lateral nerve of segment 2


lateral posterior root of ndbv




median cerebral ganglion


median ganglion of ndbv


median nerve of branchial crown


median nuchal nerve


median posterior root of ndbv


nerve(s) of the alimentary canal


nerve of the branchial crown


nerve of collar


nerve of the dorsal blood vessel


nerve of lar


nerve of the most dorsal radiolus


nerve(s) of the mouth region


nuchal nerve


nerve of lip-associated pinnula


nerve(s) of radiolus (-i)


nerves to ventral longitudinal muscles


outgrowths of the dorsal lip




posterior coil of drcc

pnr1pnr2 etc.

first, second, etc., palp nerve root


posterior tract of dac


posterior tract of vac


right longitudinal association tract


surrounding sheath of supporting tissue of lar


surrounding sheath of supporting tissues of radiolus


supporting tissue of lar


sagittal tract of ndbv


ventral association commissure


ventral commissure of drcc


ventral commissure of vrcc


first ventral ganglion


second ventral ganglion


third ventral ganglion


ventral lip


ventral root of cc


ventral root of nbc


ventral sac


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lars Orrhage
    • 1
  1. 1.Section of Invertebrate ZoologySwedish Museum of Natural HistoryStockholmSweden

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