Deep Sea Bristle Worm
A Deep Sea Bristle Worm Image: N/A
© Australian Museum

What are Polychaetes?

Polychaetes are segmented worms, or annelids, that are abundant in all marine and estuarine environments. The name ‘polychaete’ is derived from the Greek meaning ‘having much hair’ (referring to the chaetae or bristles found on many species).

Polychaetes are:

  • pronounced ‘polly-keets’
  • one of the most common benthic (bottom-dwelling) marine animals (both species and individuals)
  • mostly less than 10 centimetres long, but some species can reach 3 metres

What is International Polychaete Day?

It’s all in the name, a day to celebrate polychaetes! 1st July was selected as it was the birthday of Dr Kristian Fauchald from the Smithsonian Institute of Natural History, who had spent much time at the Australian Museum working on our important polychaete collections.

The day is celebrated around the world from Australia (Australian Museum, Museums Victoria) to Europe (White Sea Biological Station of Moscow University, Russia, National Museum of Wales, UK) to USA (Smithsonian Marine Station Aquarium in Fort Pierce, Florida and Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. and in Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, California). The aim of the event is to raise awareness about the importance and diversity of polychaete worms.

World-leading polychaete research at the Australian Museum

The Australian Museum houses one of the largest polychaete collections in the world with over 51,000 lots. The research group is one of the most active polychaete research groups in any museum in the world.

The first International Polychaete Conference was held in the Australian Museum in 1983, since then the conference has been held every three years in different countries around the world, it returned to Sydney 30 years later in 2013.

In August this year, the 13th International Polychaete conference will be held in Long Beach, California.

Find out more about polychaete research at the Australian Museum

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