, Volume 535, Issue 1, pp 37–52

Chaetae and chaetogenesis in polychaetes (Annelida)



Annelid chaetae are epidermal extracellular structures that are in general clearly visible from the exterior. Their structure is highly diverse, especially within the Polychaeta, and each species shows a specific pattern of chaetae. Chaetae have therefore gained immense significance for species determination, making them the best studied structures in polychaetes. The shape of chaetae is determined by the temporal and spatial modification of the microvilli pattern of a single cell, the chaetoblast. As chaetae are species specific, the process of their formation must be under strict control and the information needed to form certain chaetae must be highly conservative. It can be assumed that corresponding chaetogenesis is caused by commonly inherited information. Thus, comparative chaetogenesis can help to test hypotheses on the homology of certain types of chaetae and help to unravel the influence of functional constraints on the shape of chaetae. Different types of chaetae are compared here and the present state of our knowledge of their structure and formation is used to present some homology hypotheses. There are some strong arguments for a homology of uncini and certain hooks and hooded hooks. Acicula are compared to other supportive setae and the significance of the arrangement of chaeta for phylogenetic considerations is shown. Coding issues are provided in order to facilitate inclusion of information on chaetae into data matrices.


Annelida ultrastructure chaetae chaetogenesis 


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© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Animal systematics and evolutionFree University BerlinBerlinGermany

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