Global diversity of polychaetes (Polychaeta; Annelida) in freshwater

  • Christopher J. GlasbyEmail author
  • Tarmo Timm
Part of the Developments in Hydrobiology book series (DIHY, volume 198)


A literature review of Polychaeta (Annelida) including Aphanoneura (the oligochaete-like Aeolosomatidae and Potamodrilidae), living in freshwater yielded 168 species, 70 genera and 24 families representing all of the major polychaete clades, but less than 2% of all species. The best-represented families were, in order, Nereididae, Aeolosomatidae, Sabellidae, Spionidae and Histriobdellidae. Fourteen families were represented by a single species and genus. Regions supporting the highest diversity of freshwater polychaetes were in order, Palaearctic, Neotropical, Oriental, Nearctic, Australasian, and Afrotropical. More than half of all species and genera inhabitat lakes and rivers, followed by lagoons/ estuaries, which have a high proportion of euryhaline species, and inland seas. Less common, atypical polychaete habitats include subterranean waters, the hyporheic zone of rivers and plant container habitats (phytotelmata). At least three distinct ecological/ historical processes appear to account for the colonisation of continental waters: invasion of a clade prior to the break-up of Gondwana, as in Aphanoneura, Namanereis, Stratiodrilus, and Caobangia; relatively recent stranding of individual species (relicts); and the temporary visitation of euryhaline species.


Annelida Polychaeta Aphanoneura Relict Introduced species Endemicity Zoogeography 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern TerritoryGPODarwinAustralia
  2. 2.Centre for LimnologyEstonian University of Life SciencesRannu, TartumaaEstonia

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