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Missing taxonomy template ( fix ): Tomopteridae
Genus: Tomopteris
Eschscholtz, 1825 [1]

Tomopteris catharina
Tomopteris elegns Chun, 1888 [2]
Tomopteris helgolandica
Tomopteris pacifica
Tomopteris planctonis
Tomopteris nisseni
Tomopteris renata
Tomopteris cavalli
Tomopteris septentrionalisSteenstrup

Tomopteris (Neo-Latin from Greek meaning "a cut" + "wing" but taken to mean "fin") [3] is a genus of marine planktonic polychaetes. All described species are known to be holoplanktic, meaning that they spend their entire life cycles in the water column. [4]

E. Newton Harvey had noted the unusual yellow bioluminescence [5] occurring from the parapodia. There are very few known marine animals that exhibit yellow luminescence. [6] [7] Many species of plankton are known to display this property of bioluminescence. [8] The mechanisms of this process are not well understood; only that they do not use any of the currently known luciferins. If disturbed, a few species are known to release bioluminescent particles from their parapodia, though possibly all species of Tomopteris do this. It is thought that this mode is to distract predators, analogous to chaff or flares dispensed from military aircraft during evasive maneuvers.

Generally they grow to only a few centimeters in overall length, or 20 millimetres (0.79 in) to 40 millimetres (1.6 in) in total length, though this is likely to reflect the size of those amenable to being caught in trawl nets. [9]

Related Research Articles

Polychaete Class of annelid worms

The Polychaeta, also known as the bristle worms or polychaetes, are a paraphyletic class of annelid worms, generally marine. Each body segment has a pair of fleshy protrusions called parapodia that bear many bristles, called chaetae, which are made of chitin. More than 10,000 species are described in this class. Common representatives include the lugworm and the sandworm or clam worm Alitta.

Bioluminescence The production of light by certain enzyme-catalyzed reactions in cells

Bioluminescence is the production and emission of light by a living organism. It is a form of chemiluminescence. Bioluminescence occurs widely in marine vertebrates and invertebrates, as well as in some fungi, microorganisms including some bioluminescent bacteria, and terrestrial arthropods such as fireflies. In some animals, the light is bacteriogenic, produced by symbiotic bacteria such as those from the genus Vibrio; in others, it is autogenic, produced by the animals themselves.


Holoplankton are organisms that are planktic for their entire life cycle. Holoplankton can be contrasted with meroplankton, which are planktic organisms that spend part of their life cycle in the benthic zone. Examples of holoplankton include some diatoms, radiolarians, some dinoflagellates, foraminifera, amphipods, krill, copepods, and salps, as well as some gastropod mollusk species. Holoplankton dwell in the pelagic zone as opposed to the benthic zone. Holoplankton include both phytoplankton and zooplankton and vary in size. The most common plankton are protists.


Pyrosomes, genus Pyrosoma, are free-floating colonial tunicates that usually live in the upper layers of the open ocean in warm seas, although some may be found at greater depths. Pyrosomes are cylindrical or cone-shaped colonies up to 18 m (60 ft) long, made up of hundreds to thousands of individuals, known as zooids. Colonies range in size from less than one centimeter to several metres in length. They are commonly called "sea pickles".


Epitoky is a process that occurs in many species of polychaete marine worms wherein a sexually immature worm is modified or transformed into a sexually mature worm. Epitokes are pelagic morphs capable of sexual reproduction. Unlike the immature form, which is typically benthic, epitokes are specialized for swimming as well as reproducing. The primary benefit to epitoky is increased chances of finding other members of the same species for reproduction.

Chaetopterus pugaporcinus, commonly known as the pigbutt worm or flying buttocks, is a species of worm first described by scientists at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in 2007. The worm is round in shape, approximately 10 to 20 millimeters in length, and bears a strong resemblance to a disembodied pair of buttocks. Because of this, it was given a Latin species name that roughly translates to "resembling a pig's rear."


Chaetopterus or the parchment worm or parchment tube worm is a genus of marine polychaete worm that lives in a tube it constructs in sediments or attaches to a rocky or coral reef substrate. The common name arises from the parchment-like appearance of the tubes that house these worms. Parchment tube worms are filter feeders and spend their adult lives in their tubes, unless the tube is damaged or destroyed. They are planktonic in their juvenile forms, as is typical for polychaete annelids. Species include the recently discovered deep water Chaetopterus pugaporcinus and the well-studied Chaetopterus variopedatus.

<i>Alitta succinea</i> Common clam worm

Alitta succinea is a species of marine annelid in the family Nereididae. It has been recorded throughout the North West Atlantic, as well as in the Gulf of Maine and South Africa.

<i>Odontosyllis enopla</i>

Odontosyllis enopla, commonly known as the Bermuda fireworm, is a polychaete worm that inhabits shallow areas of the western Atlantic Ocean. The organism is bioluminescent when it rises to the surface of the sea during its mating period. It is possible that this fireworm is the explanation of a candle-like light seen by Christopher Columbus during his first voyage on 11 October 1492 before he made landfall in his explorations.

Spirorbis borealis is a sedentary marine polychaete worm in the Serpulidae family. It is commonly called the sinistral spiral tubeworm and is the type species of the genus Spirorbis.

<i>Sabellastarte spectabilis</i>

Sabellastarte spectabilis is a species of benthic marine polychaete worm in the Sabellidae family. It is commonly known as the feather duster worm, feather duster or fan worm. It is native to tropical waters of the Indo-Pacific but has spread to other parts of the world. It is popular in aquariums because of its distinctive appearance and its ability to remove organic particles and improve water quality.


Phyllodocida is an order of polychaete worms in the subclass Aciculata. These worms are mostly marine though some are found in brackish water. Most are active benthic creatures, moving over the surface or burrowing in sediments, or living in cracks and crevices in bedrock. A few construct tubes in which they live and some are pelagic, swimming through the water column. There are estimated to be about 3,500 species in the order.

Neosabellaria cementarium is a species of marine tube worm in the family Sabellariidae, perhaps better known by its previous name, Sabellaria cementarium. It is found in the North Pacific Ocean.

Annelid Phylum of segmented worms

The annelids, also known as the ringed worms or segmented worms, are a large phylum, with over 22,000 extant species including ragworms, earthworms, and leeches. The species exist in and have adapted to various ecologies – some in marine environments as distinct as tidal zones and hydrothermal vents, others in fresh water, and yet others in moist terrestrial environments.

Prosphaerosyllis battiri is a species belonging to the phylum Annelida, a group known as the segmented worms. The species name comes from an Aboriginal word, battiri, meaning "rough". Prosphaerosyllis battiri is a species characterized by having only partially fused palps, an unretracted prostomium on its peristomium or showing only slight retraction, the shape of its dorsal cirri and its arrangement of papillae, being numerous anteriorly while less numerous posteriorly. It resembles Prosphaerosyllis semiverrucosa, but its arrangement of dorsal papillae is reversed.

Odontosyllis phosphorea, commonly known as a fireworm, is a polychaete worm that inhabits the Pacific coast of North and Central America. The organism normally lives in a tube on the seabed, but it becomes bioluminescent when it rises to the surface of the sea during breeding season.

<i>Biuve fulvipunctata</i>

Biuve fulvipunctata, the white-speckled headshield slug, is a species of sea slug or headshield slug, a marine opisthobranch gastropod mollusc in the family Aglajidae. This species is widespread in the Indian and Pacific Oceans but has invaded the Mediterranean Sea since 1961, despite apparently being absent from the Red Sea until recorded there in the 21st century. It is the only species in the monotypic genus Biuve.

<i>Scolelepis squamata</i>

Scolelepis squamata is a species of polychaete worm in the family Spionidae. It occurs on the lower shore of coasts on either side of the Atlantic Ocean.

<i>Poecilochaetus serpens</i>

Poecilochaetus serpens is a species of marine polychaete worm in the family Poecilochaetidae. It is a benthic worm that burrows into soft sediment.

<i>Phyllodoce lineata</i>

Phyllodoce lineata is a species of polychaete worm in the family Phyllodocidae. It is native to the northeastern Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea where it occurs in the intertidal and shallow sub-tidal zones on soft sediment.


  1. ITIS Standard Report Page: Tomopteris
  2. Die pelagische Thierwelt in grösseren Meerestiefen und ihre Beziehungen zu der Oberflächenfauna. K Chun, 1888
  3. Definition: tomopteris from Online Medical Dictionary
  4. Fernandez-Alamo, MA (2000). "Tomopterids (Annelida: Polychaeta) from the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean". Bulletin of Marine Science. 67 (1): 45–53.
  5. Harvey, Edmund Newton (1952). Bioluminescence. Academic Press.
  6. "tomopteris". UCSB. ucsb. Retrieved 10 December 2013.
  7. Tomopteris picture
  8. Dales, R Phillips (1971). "Bioluminescence in Pelagic Polychaetes". Journal of the Fisheries Research Board of Canada. 28 (10): 1487–1489. doi:10.1139/f71-228.
  9. "Tomopteris helgolandica". Species-Identification. Retrieved 10 December 2013.