Dr Ruth Barnich, our Principal Taxonomist, has shared with us one of her findings from a current project, assessing benthic samples from the Southern North Sea near a gas gathering platform for our client, Gardline.
The animal is a nereid polychaete, and is a female in a reproductive stage which is known as the “heteronereis” phase. This is an interesting find because animals at this stage are rarely found in benthic samples. Normally, by the time they have developed to the heteronereis stage, they have swarmed away from the ocean floor, and up into the water column, to begin the breeding process. Possibly this female was preparing to swarm as she was grabbed.
As an adaptation for their pelagic swarming behaviour, heteronereids have enlarged sensory organs, such as very large eyes as shown in the image, and modified parapodia allowing for improved swimming.