1979 Edition


  • Ida Thompson
Reference work entry

The annelids are the most diverse and abundant members of almost all soft-bottom marine communities. The main representatives of this phylum of segmented worms are earthworms, polychaetes, and leeches. As earthworms tunnel in the soil, most polychaetes burrow in marine mud and leeches seek a living host. The fossil record is almost barren of earthworms and leeches. They leave no hard parts and almost always live in freshwater or terrestrial environments, where the chances of fossilization are poorer than in marine conditions.

Polychaetes have the best fossil record and therefore are of most interest to paleontologists. Many species of these worms have hard parts, either chitinous jaws or mineralized tubes, which are readily fossilized. In addition, they live in areas of near-shore sedimentation, where eventual recovery of fossils is most likely. But most polychaete fossils are jaws, and these are easily overlooked. They are dark and tiny, usually <1 mm long; special techniques are...

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© Dowden, Hutchinson & Ross, Inc. 1979

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  • Ida Thompson

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