Phylogeny and genetic diversity of palolo worms (Palola, Eunicidae) from the tropical North Pacific and the Caribbean. Academic Article uri icon


  • Palolo worms (Palola, Eunicidae) are best known for their annual mass spawnings, or "risings," in the South Pacific. Palola currently contains 14 morphologically similar species, mostly from shallow tropical waters. In this study, 60 specimens of Palola from nine locations in the tropical North Pacific and the Caribbean were sequenced for the two mitochondrial markers cytochrome c oxidase subunit I and 16S ribosomal RNA to infer phylogenetic relationships, genetic diversity, and phylogeography within the taxon. Phylogenetic analysis was performed using Bayesian statistics and parsimony. Vouchers of the same specimens were examined morphologically. Two major clades (A and B) can be distinguished within the monophyletic Palola. A number of individuals in clade B bear rows of ventral eyespots in the posterior body region, typical for swarming P. viridis and probably a synapomorphy for clade B. No morphological synapomorphy was found for clade A. Haplotypes from divergent clades often co-occur in the same location. Some haplotypes are geographically widespread, in one case covering the entire east-west expansion of the tropical Pacific. These results imply that despite the apparent absence of teleplanic larvae in eunicid polychaetes, long-distance dispersal is possible in at least some lineages of Palola. With the first taste of palolo I understood the Samoans' love for it. Certainly it suggested a salty caviar, but with something added, a strong, rich whiff of the mystery and fecundity of the ocean depths. -R. Steinberg. Pacific and Southeast Asian cooking. Time-Life Books, New York, 1970.

published proceedings

  • Biol Bull

author list (cited authors)

  • Schulze, A.

citation count

  • 31

complete list of authors

  • Schulze, Anja

publication date

  • February 2006