Celebrating half a century of polychaete research at the Australian Museum.

In the late 1960’s, while still finishing her PhD on polychaete reproduction in the UK, Pat Hutchings was recruited by the Australian Museum to an Assistant Curators position. This was the start of polychaete research at the Australian Museum. Before 1970 there was not a single dedicated polychaete expert in Australia and so little was known about the diversity of Australian polychaetes that most species were assumed to have the the same names as their European relatives. For nearly half a century Pat has continued her studies on these amazing animals, whose distribution occurs throughout all marine and estuarine environments globally.

Much has changed since 1970. Postgraduate students supervised by Pat have become fellow polychaete researches and work on polychaetes in institutions throughout the world. Hundreds of taxa have been revised and new species described by Pat and her collaborators, many of whom are her former students. The Australian Museum has an established reputation as a center for polychaete research, and it is not accidental that two out 11 International Polychaete Conferences to date (the very first one in 1983 and the most recent in 2013) were held the Australian Museum.

As a Senior Principal Research Scientist at the Australian Museum, Pat has been recognised by a number of prestigious awards for her polychaete research, increasing awareness of their significant role in marine and estuarine ecosystems, local and international collaborations, involvement in marine conservation and for her mentoring and supervision of students. The number of new polychaete species described and named after Pat by her colleagues keeps growing every year.

In her amazingly productive research career at the Museum, Pat has:

  • published over 290 refereed scientific papers, 20 technical reports and numerous popular articles;
  • described over 300 species;
  • confirmed that polychaetes are far more closely related to molluscs than to arthropods as previously thought;
  • undertaken extensive studies on rates and agents of bioerosion on coral reefs of the Great Barrier Reef and in French Polynesia;
  • been heavily involved in marine conservation, summarising the conservation status of Australian marine invertebrates;
  • worked with local community groups for the conservation of estuarine wetlands in the Sydney region; and
  • highlighted the introduction of non-native species into Australian marine coastal waters via ballast water and as hull fouling organisms

Today, as a part of the International Polychaete Day events, we celebrate Pat’s career in polychaete research at the Australian Museum and her service to the international community of worm-loving scientists. As of today, Pat formally retires, only to devote all her time to her beloved segmented animals and to continue as an editor for Zootaxa. The tradition of polychaete research at the Australian Museum lives on not only with Pat’s contributions, but through research being undertaken by Anna Murray, Hannelore Paxton, and myself.

Elena Kupriyanova, Senior Research Scientist, AMRI

More Information

Some polychaete taxa named after Dr Pat Hutchings:

Genus Hutchingsiella Londono-Mesa, 2003 (family Terebellidae)
Cossura hutchingsae Zhadan, 2015 (family Cossuridae)
Lanicola hutchingsae Carrerette & Nogueira, 2015 (family Terebellidae)
Sphaerephesia hutchingsae Capa & Bakken, 2015 (family Sphaerodoridae)
Kimberleya hutchingsae Pillai, 2009 (family Serpulidae)
Spinosphaera hutchingsae Londoño-Mesa, 2003 (family Terebellidae)
Heteromastus hutchingsae Green, 2002 (family Capitellidae)
Platynereis hutchingsae Leon-Gonzalez, Solis-Weiss & Valadez Rocha, 2001(family Nereididae)
Heronidrilus hutchingsae Erséus, 1990 (Clitellata, family Tubuficidae)
Rhamphobrachium hutchingsae (family Onuphidae) Paxton, 1986
Scolelepis hutchingsae Dauer, 1985 (family Spionidae)