Regional Distribution Map
|Bioregion||Region Name||Year||Invasion Status||Population Status|
|CAR-VII||Cape Hatteras to Mid-East Florida||1892||Crypto||Estab|
|NA-ET3||Cape Cod to Cape Hatteras||1879||Crypto||Estab|
|NA-ET2||Bay of Fundy to Cape Cod||0||Crypto||Estab|
|CAR-I||Northern Yucatan, Gulf of Mexico, Florida Straits, to Middle Eastern Florida||0||Crypto||Estab|
|NEP-III||Alaskan panhandle to N. of Puget Sound||1932||Def||Estab|
|NEP-IV||Puget Sound to Northern California||1950||Def||Estab|
|NEP-V||Northern California to Mid Channel Islands||1933||Def||Estab|
|NEP-VI||Pt. Conception to Southern Baja California||1938||Def||Estab|
|P292||_CDA_P292 (San Juan Islands)||1937||Def||Estab|
|P090||San Francisco Bay||1933||Def||Estab|
|P065||_CDA_P065 (Santa Barbara Channel)||1971||Def||Estab|
|P095||_CDA_P095 (Tomales-Drakes Bay)||1969||Def||Estab|
|P061||_CDA_P061 (Los Angeles)||0||Def||Estab|
|P060||Santa Monica Bay||1941||Def||Estab|
|P050||San Pedro Bay||1952||Def||Estab|
|P020||San Diego Bay||1994||Def||Estab|
|P058||_CDA_P058 (San Pedro Channel Islands)||1963||Def||Estab|
|P023||_CDA_P023 (San Louis Rey-Escondido)||2001||Def||Estab|
|P027||_CDA_P027 (Aliso-San Onofre)||2000||Def||Estab|
|NA-ET1||Gulf of St. Lawrence to Bay of Fundy||0||Crypto||Estab|
|P293||_CDA_P293 (Strait of Georgia)||2011||Def||Estab|
Adults of the 'Polydora cornuta' species complex have up to 90 segments. The prostomium has a lateral incision, forming two lobes and is prolonged back to chaetiger 3 as a caruncle. Most specimens have 4 eyes in a trapezoidal arrangement, on the prostomium, with a small, triangular, occipital tentacle located posteriorly to them. A ciliated groove runs on either side of the caruncle. The prostomium is flanked by a pair of long, prehensile palps, which stretch back to chaetigers 15-35. The palps each have a ciliated groove along their lengths, bordered by a fine black line, but lack conspicuous pigment.
Chaetiger 1 has well-formed parapodial lobes, but has chaetae (fine, capillary) only on the neuropodia. The notopodia lack chaetae, but have long, finger-like lamellae. Chaetigers 2-4 and 6 have bundles of capillary neurochaetae and notochaetae. However, chaetiger 5 is modified and bears a row of 6-8 stout spines with adhering companion chaetae, and with dorsal musculature running back to chaetigers 6 and 7. Chaetigers from 7 on, have long, thin branchiae and up to 15 stout hooded hooks on the neuropodia, while notopodial chaetae decrease in number posteriorly. The pygidium is flared and resembles a suction cup. Adult worms reach a length of 12-32 mm and are light tan in color. Smaller worms have black melanophores laterally from chaetigers 2-7 to 10-22, and yellow chromatophores ventrally from chaetigers 5-7 to 16-21. Larval development is described (as P. ligni) by Blake (1969). Description based on: Blake 1971, Blake and Kudenov 1978, Light 1978, Blake 1983, Blake and Maciolek 1987, Radashevsky and Hsieh 2000, Cinar et al. 2005, Radashevsky 2005, and Radashevsky and Selifonova 2013; Bertasi 2016.
The species was first described in 1805 from Charleston, North Carolina, but was later known more widely under the name Polydora ligni (Webster 1879, described from New Jersey). The name 'Polydora cornuta' was re-instituted and the animal redescribed by Blake and Maciolek (1987). Populations of P. cornuta around the world show small differences in morphology and substantial differences in size which may indicate both genetic and environmental differences (Radashevsky and Hsieh 2000; Cinar et al. 2005). Rice (1991) and Rice et al. (2008) found that populations of P. cornuta from Florida, Maine, and California each showed genetic differences and low frequency of hybridization indicating their status as cryptic species. However worms from North Carolina and California were interfertile (Rice 1991), and California worms were interfertile with worms from New Zealand (Rice et al. 1998). Further genetic comparisons among populations are needed to trace the likely anthropogenic spread of this species.
Polydora ciliatum (Agassiz, 1867)
Polydora cornuta (Blake and Maciolek, 1987)
Polydora ligni (Webster, 1809)
Polydora littorea (Verrill, 1881)
Potentially Misidentified Species
Polydora ciliata (Johnston 1833) is primarily a borer in calcareous substrates, native to the Northeast Atlantic. In European waters, P. cornuta has been widely misidentified as P. ciliata (Wolff 1973; Michaelis 1978; Blake and Maciolek 1987; Bertasi 2016). Polydora ciliata and P. websteri are closely related, frequently confused, and can be considered as members of the same species complex of shell-boring Polydora spp. (Sato-Okoshi and Abe 2013; Surugiu 2012).
Polydora limicola (Annenkova 1934) was described from the Bering Sea, initially as a subspecies of P. ciliata. It has been reported as an introduction from Vladivostok, Russia (Bagaveeva and Zvyagintsev 2000) and the Black Sea. Specimens from the Black Sea were re-identified as P. cornuta (Radashevsky and Selifonova 2013). Identifications of this polychaete on the West Coast (e.g. Light 1977; Blake and Ruff 2007) probably refer to other species, including P. cornuta (Leslie Harris, personal communication 2014; Vasily Radashevsky, personal communication 2015).
Polydora nuchalis (Woodwick 1953), native to the Northeast Pacific is morphologically similar to P. cornuta, but differs in the structure of spines and companion chaetae on chaetiger 5. It inhabits estuarine mudflats (Blake and Ruff 2007).
Polydora websteri (Hartman 1943) described from Milford, Connecticut, is a reportedly cosmopolitan shell-borer (Blake 1971; Radashevsky 1999; Sato-Okoshi and Abe 2013).
Invasion HistoryFirst Non-native North American Tidal Record: 1932
First Non-native West Coast Tidal Record: 1932
First Non-native East/Gulf Coast Tidal Record:
General Invasion History:
Polydora cornuta was described from Charleston, South Carolina by Bosc in 1802, and later widely found on the East Coast of the United States from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the Gulf of Mexico (Blake 1971; Blake and Maciolek 1987). It was reported from northern Europe as early as 1859 (Claparede 1861), but its range and invasion status are complicated by confusion with the similar species, P. ciliata, which is usually found boring in shells and calcareous substrates (Wolff 1973; Radashevsky 2005). It is apparently introduced in the Black and Mediterranean Seas (Cinar et al. 2005; Surugiu 2012; Radashevsky and Selifonova 2013), the Southwestern Atlantic (Brazil-Argentina, Orensanz et al. 2002; Radashevsky 2005), the Northeast Pacific (British Columbia to Mexico, Hartman 1941; Light 1977; Carlton 1979; Blake and Ruff 2007), the Northwest Pacific (China-Russia, Sato-Okoshi 1999; Radashvesky 2005), and the Southwest Pacific (Australia-New Zealand, Read 1975; Blake and Kudenov 1978; Walker 2009).
North American Invasion History:
Invasion History on the West Coast:
Polydora cornuta was first collected from Ladysmith, British Columbia (BC) in 1932, and found at the San Juan Islands, Washington (WA), San Francisco Bay, and Mission Bay, California (CA) from 1932 to 1938 (Carlton 1979; Hartman 1941; U.S. National Museum of Natural History 2015). It was subsequently found at many intermediate estuaries, including Grays Harbor, WA (1st record 1953, U.S. National Museum of Natural History 2015); Willapa Bay, WA (1st record 2000, Cohen et al. 2001); the Columbia River estuary, WA – Oregon (OR) (1980, Jones 1983); Coos Bay, OR (Hartman and Reish, 1950; cited by Carlton 1979); Humboldt Bay, CA (Barnhart 1992, cited by Boyd et al. 2002); Elkhorn Slough, CA (1st record 1977, Wasson et al. 2001); and Morro Bay, CA (1st record 1960, Reish and Barnard 1967). Except for the Columbia River, all of these estuaries had received transplants of Eastern Oysters (Crassostrea virginica) (Carlton 1979).
In southern California, although few Eastern Oyster transplants were made, Polydora cornuta has been collected, often in high abundance, both in major harbors for commercial shipping and small bays used by recreational boats. For instance, records are known from Los Angeles-Long Beach Harbor (1st record 1966, Crippen and Reish 1969 cited by Carlton 1979); San Diego Bay (1st record 1994, Levin et al. 1998), Playa del Rey Lagoon, Venice Beach (1st record 1941, Alan Hancock Foundation, cited by Carlton 1979); Alamitos Bay (1st record 1952, Reish and Winter 1954, cited by Carlton 1979); Anaheim Bay (1st record 1972, Reish et al. 1975); and Santa Catalina Island (1st record 1963, Reish et al. 1964, cited by Carlton 1979). Polydora cornuta has also been introduced to the Salton Sea, a land-locked artificial saline lake, and was first collected there in 1961 (Carlton 1979; USNM 39642, U.S. National Museum of Natural History 2015).
It is likely that Polydora cornuta has been transferred from the East to the West Coast many times, with Eastern Oyster transplants, hull fouling, and ballast water, and later moved to additional estuaries by hull fouling, and perhaps by other vectors, such as discarded shellfish, or seaweed used to pack bait.
Invasion History Elsewhere in the World:
In Europe, Polydora cornuta was reported from Scotland in 1859 (Claparede 1861), but was often confused with P. ciliata, although the latter species is predominantly associated with shells and other calcareous substrates (Wolf 1973; Michaelis 1978; Ramberg and Schram 1982; Surugiu 2012). Wolff (1973) notes that it was collected in the Netherlands in 1930, but identified then as P. ciliata. It is known from the Scheldt, Meuse and Rhine estuaries in the Netherlands (Wolff 1973); Langeoog Island and the Jade-Weser Delta, Germany (U.S. National Museum of Natural History 2015; Michaelis 1978); and the inner Oslofjord, Norway (Ramberg and Schram 1982). It is also known from the western Baltic, including the Isefjord, Denmark (Hansen et al. 2010), and the Kiel Bight and Mecklenberg Bay, Germany (Anger 1977; Radashevsky 2005; U.S. National Museum of Natural History 2015). Records on the outer Atlantic coast of Europe are rare and scattered, including the Isle of Skye/Scotland (Claparede 1861), Marennes-Oleron Bay, France (de Montaudouin and Sauriau 2000), and the Óbidos lagoon, Portugal (Carvalho et al. 2011). The frequent confusion between P. ciliata and P. cornuta makes it difficult to determine the invasion status of P. cornuta, at least in northern Europe. Genetic studies would be useful in resolving the origin of these worms.
In the Black Sea, there were apparently no non-boring Polydora collected before 1962, and in the Mediterranean, records of P. cornuta are recent, widely scattered, and located near harbors. These include Valencia, Spain (1st record 1990, Tena et al. 1991); the Venice Lagoon, Italy (1st record 1991, Tagliapietra et al. 1998); Izmir Bay, Turkey (1st record 2003, Cinar et al. 2005); and the Saronikos Gulf, Greece (1st record 2008, Simboura et al. 2008). In the Black Sea proper, P. cornuta was first collected off Odessa, Ukraine in 1962, and initially identified as P. ciliata limicola (Losovskaya and Zolotarev 2003). It is now widespread in the Black Sea, the Sea of Marmara, and the Sea of Azov (Dagli and Ergen 2008; Karhan et al. 2008; Radashevsky and Selifonova 2013).
In the Southwestern Atlantic, Polydora cornuta was first collected in the Mar Chiquita Lagoon, Mar Del Plata, Argentina in 1967 (Orensanz et al. 2002; Radashevsky 2005; U.S. National Museum of Natural History 2015) and later, in Rio de Janeiro Harbor (in 1986) and Paranagua Bay (in 1998), Brazil (Radashevsky et al. 2005; U.S. National Museum of Natural History 2015). In the Northwest Pacific, it was first reported from the east coast of Taiwan, on the Formosa Straits (in 1990, Radashevsky and Hsieh 2000; Radashevsky 2005). Other early records are from Shihwa Lake, South Korea, on the Yellow Sea (in 1994, Lee and Cha, 1997, cited by Radashevsky 2005) and Vladivostok, Russia (in 1994, Radashevsky 2005). Polydora cornuta was collected at several ports on the southeastern and west coasts of Japan (1984-1997, Sato-Okoshi 2000). One puzzling record came from the Sea of Japan, off Russia, at 3334 m depth (in 2010, Alalykina 2013). This polychaete is also known from two ports in New Zealand: Whangarei and Waitemata Harbors (Read 1975; Read and Gordon 1991), and from Victoria (Blake and Kudenov 1978) and Botany Bay, Australia (in 1973, Walker 2009).
'Polydora cornuta' is an estuarine spionid polychaete, which dwells in mud and mucus tubes in sediment, and in fouling communities on hard surfaces (Blake 1971; Blake and Maciolek 1987). 'Polydora cornuta' is a widely distributed complex of cryptic species, probably varying in environmental tolerances and life history (Rice et al. 2008). The sexes are separate (Rice 1991). Eggs are laid in capsules, linked in strings attached to the interior of the tubes. Capsules in Maine estuaries contained up to 132 eggs, but about half of those were unfertilized and used as food by developing larvae (Blake 1969; Gibson et al. 2012). Larvae are released from the capsules at the 3-chaetiger stage, and feed in the plankton (Blake 1969). Larvae settle at about 12-22 chaetigers, and ~1.1-1.3 mm length (Blake 1969; Orth 1971; Levin 1984; Anger et al. 1986; Radashevsky 2005). Development is strongly effected by temperature, with time to settlement shortening with increasing temperatures (60 days at 10C ; 16-28 days at 12C; 12-41 days at 18C; 7-14 days at 20C, 12 days at 28C) (Orth 1979; Levin 1984, Anger et al. 1986; Takata et al. 2011). Food supply can also effect developmen - two weeks of partial starvation led to an approximate doubling of time to settlement, from ~19 days to 42 days at 11C (Qian and Chia 1993). The wide variation in development times with temperature may reflect laboratory food supply, as well as genetic differences in populations from different regions. Settlement is stimulated by the presence of sediment containing microorganisms (Sebesvari et al. 2006). Growth to first reproduction is rapid, 33 days in culture at 18 C. Adults in culture, survived for an average of 13 months (Anger et al. 1986). In a Brazilian population, some males were mature at 2 mm length and females at 5 mm (Radashevsky 2005), but adult lengths of 10-20 mm are more typical (Levin 1984) and adults can reach 32 mm (Radashevsky 2005).
'Polydora cornuta' is known from a wide range of climates, and estuarine-marine habitats from the tropics to cold-temperate waters, although some of this range may result from the occurrence of cryptic species. Its habitats include subtidal and intertidal soft substrates, fouling communities in marinas and harbors, ships' hulls, and oyster beds (Graham and Gay 1945; Wolff 1973; Bagaveeva and Zvyagintsev 2000). This worm's habitats are often exposed to temperature and salinity extremes, as well as hypoxia, exposure and toxic chemicals (Wolff 1973; Levin 1984; Cinar et al. 2005). Polydora cornuta occurs in water prone to sea ice formation (Blake 1969), and has been collected from salinities of 29C (Cory 1967) in Chesapeake Bay, and probably occurs at higher temperatures. It has been collected at a salinity range of 2-75 PSU, and is abundant at salinities ranging from 5 to 75 PSU (Wolff 1973; Simmons 1957). Polydora cornuta is also tolerant of hypoxic conditions and is considered an indicator species for pollution (Anger 1977; Rice et al. 1980; Cinar et al. 2005; Levin et al. 2009).
Its larvae are planktotrophic, feeding on phytoplankton (Anger et al. 1986). Adults of P. cornuta are capable of shifting between deposit-feeding detritus and surface-microalgae, and suspension-feeding (phytoplankton and suspended particles). Their ciliated palps can either stretch over the sediment surface to pick up sediment particles, or wave in the current to pick up phytoplankton (Dauer et al. 2005). Feeding and growth rates of P. cornuta increased in simulated tidal currents (Hentschel and Herrick 2005). Although P. cornuta is generally considered a suspension and deposit-feeder, predation on small bivalves (veligers of several species, juveniles of Gemma gemma) has been documented (Breese and Phibbs 1972; Weinberg 1984). The large populations of P. cornuta in eutrophic waters are a potential food source for fishes and invertebrates (Oviatt et al. 1987). Sublethal predation on P. cornuta, with predators biting off parts of worms, with subsequent regeneration, was common in Long Island Sound (Zajac 1995). However, hypoxic conditions can limit the availability of these worms to fishes and other active predators.
Phytoplankton; benthic microalgae, detritus
Fishes, shrimps, crabs
Other polychaetes, Macoma spp.
Deposit Suspension Feeder
|General Habitat||Grass Bed|
|General Habitat||Vessel Hull|
|General Habitat||Coarse Woody Debris|
|General Habitat||Unstructured Bottom|
|General Habitat||Oyster Reef|
|General Habitat||Marinas & Docks|
|General Habitat||Salt-brackish marsh|
|Tidal Range||Low Intertidal|
Tolerances and Life History Parameters
|Minimum Temperature (ºC)||-2||Based on geographical range|
|Maximum Temperature (ºC)||29||Field, Patuxent River, Chesapeake Bay (Cory 1967). This polychaete probably tolerates higher temperatures.|
|Minimum Salinity (‰)||2||Field, abundant above 5 PSU (Wolff 1973)|
|Maximum Salinity (‰)||75||Field, Laguna Madre, Texas (Simmons 1957)|
|Minimum Dissolved Oxygen (mg/l)||1.4||Field, Dauer et al. 1992, cited by Levin et al. 2009|
|Minimum Reproductive Temperature||10||Laboratory, Chesapeake Bay (Orth 1971)|
|Maximum Reproductive Temperature||29||Field, Patuxent River, Chesapeake Bay (Cory 1967). This polychaete probably tolerates ligher temperatures.|
|Minimum Reproductive Salinity||5||Field, Patuxent River, Chesapeake Bay (Cory 1967). This was the approximate lower limit for settlement|
|Minimum Duration||9||18 C (Anger et al. 1986) Development is probably much shorter at higher temperatures.|
|Maximum Duration||60||10 C (Orth 1971)|
|Minimum Length (mm)||2||Smallest mature male, Brazil. Females were mature at 5.5 mm (Radashevsky 2005).|
|Maximum Length (mm)||32||Radashevsky 2005|
|Broad Temperature Range||Cold temperate-Tropical|
|Broad Salinity Range||Oligohaline-Hyperhaline|
General ImpactsEconomic Impacts
On the East of North America, Polydora cornuta is widely regarded as a pest in Easter Oyster (Crassostrea gigas) culture. It can develop dense colonies on the outside of the shells of oysters and mussels, smothering them with mud from their tubes. However, it is not capable of boring into shells, and is frequently confused with the specialized shell-borers P. ciliata and P. websteri (Galtsoff 1964; White and Wilson 1996; Sato-Okoshi 2000; Surugiru 2012). The extent to which P. cornuta affects oyster culture elsewhere in the world is unknown. However, P. cornuta was found consuming clam and oyster larvae in a hatchery in Newport, Oregon (Breese and Phibbs 1972).
Polydora cornuta is widely recognized as a 'pollution indicator' species, known to rapidly increase in eutrophic estuaries, and estuaries receiving toxic pollutants, both in its native range and in areas where it has been introduced. This worm's tolerance of environmental extremes of temperature, salinity, and oxygen, as well as its feeding and habitat flexibility have enabled it to colonize harbors where other species have declined due to natural or anthropogenic stresses (Wolff 1973; Anger 1977; Rice and Simon 1980; Oviatt et al. 1987; Tagliapietra et al. 1998). Polydora cornuta occurs both in soft-bottom communities and fouling communities on marinas, docks, shells, ship hulls, etc. (Graham and Gay 1945; Wolff 1973; Bagaveeva and Zvyagintsev 2000), and can alternate between deposit-feeding from the sediment surface, or suspension-feeding on phytoplankton and particles in the water column (Dauer et al. 2005; Hentshel and Herrick 2005). Consequently, P. cornuta is a strong competitor in eutrophic habitats, and can become overwhelmingly dominant in sewage-polluted habitats (Anger 1977; Oviatt et al. 1987).
Competition- Competitive impacts of invading populations of Polydora cornuta are difficult to evaluate, because this polychaete tends to dominate in strongly disturbed and eutrophic environments, in which many polychaetes do poorly. However, its rapid growth, high fecundity, hypoxic tolerance, and trophic flexibility enable it to outnumber most other polychaetes (Wolff 1973; Anger 1977; Oviatt et al. 1987). Evidence of P. cornuta's competitive impacts is based partly on rapid colonization of polluted areas in the Black Sea, Sea of Marmara, Aegean Sea, and the Seto Inland Sea, Japan (Yamada et al. 2001; Losovskaya and Zolotarev 2003; Dagli and Ergen 2008; Karhan et al. 2008; Cinar et al. 2012), but also on eutrophication experiments, where it can reach extraordinary densities (e.g., Oviatt et al. 1987).
Herbivory- Polydora cornuta, reaches high abundances and becomes the dominant suspension-feeder in eutrophic areas, both as adults, with their palps extended in the water column (Dauer et al. 2005; Hentschel and Herrick 2005; Shimeta et al. 2005), and as planktonic larvae (Watras et al. 1985; Hanson 1999; Yamada et al. 2001). However, we have not found estimates of its grazing rates.
|Polydora cornuta (as P. limicola) quickly became an numerical dominant in infauna of shallow waters of the Black Sea, partially displacing Spio filicornis, Hediste diversicolor, and Neanthes succinea (Losovskaya and Zolotarev 2003)|
|Polydora cornuta was identified as a a strong pollution indicator species in the Kiel Bay area, becoming dominant in regions receiving heavy inputs of organic pollution (Anger 1977).|
|Polydora cornuta is the dominant benthic polychaete in heavily polluted sediments of the bosporus Strait (Karhan et al. 2008), the Golden Horn estuary (Cinar 2009), and Izmit Bay, Sea of Marmara (Dagli and Ergen 2008).|
|Polydora cornuta is a dominant polychaete in the most polluted part of Izmir Bay, Turkey (Cinar et al. 2012).|
|Adult Polydora cornuta were a dominant benthic organism, while larvae were a major component of the plankton, though abundance decreased below 20% O2 saturation (Yamada et al. 2001).|
|NEP-IV||Puget Sound to Northern California||Economic Impact||Fisheries|
|IIn a Newport, Oregon shellfish hatchery, in 1970, Polydora cornuta was found to be feeding on larvae of Pacific Oysters (Crassostrea gigas and 'Manila Clams' (Venerupis philippinarum), and causing significant losses (Breese and Phipps 1972).|
|P210||Yaquina Bay||Economic Impact||Fisheries|
|In a Newport, Oregon shellfish hatchery, in 1970, Polydora cornuta was found to be feeding on larvae of Pacific Oysters (Crassostrea gigas and 'Manila Clams' (Venerupis philippinarum), and causing significant losses (Breese and Phipps 1972).|
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