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Annelids in Extreme Aquatic Environments: Diversity, Adaptations and Evolution

Natural Sciences, Museum & Art Gallery Northern Territory, PO Box 4646, Darwin, NT 0801, Australia
Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods, Charles Darwin University, Casuarina, NT 0810, Australia
Systematics and Biodiversity, Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Gothenburg, Box 463, SE-405 30 Göteborg, Sweden
Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Taxonomy and Phylogeny, 29 rue Vautier, B-1000 Brussels, Belgium
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Michael Wink, Maria Capa and Pat Hutchings
Diversity 2021, 13(2), 98;
Received: 14 January 2021 / Revised: 5 February 2021 / Accepted: 17 February 2021 / Published: 23 February 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Systematics and Diversity of Annelids)
We review the variety of morphological, physiological and behavioral modifications that annelids have acquired to cope with environments either unsuitable for, or on the limits of, survival for most animals. We focus on polychaetes (excluding sipunculans and echiurans) and clitellates (oligochaetes and leeches) and source information mostly from the primary literature. We identified many modifications common to both polychaetes and clitellates, and others that are specific to one or the other group. For example, certain land-adapted polychaetes show reduction in nuchal organs, epidermal ciliation and receptor cells, and other coastal polychaetes use adhesive glands and glue-reinforced tubes to maintain position in surf zones, while oligochaetes, with their simple body plans, appear to be ‘pre-adapted’ to life underground. Modifications common to both groups include the ability to construct protective cocoons, make cryoprotective substances such as antifreeze and heat shock proteins, develop gills, transform their bodies into a home for symbiotic chemoautotrophic bacteria, metabolize contaminants, and display avoidance behaviors. Convergent evolution in both directions has enabled annelids to transition from salt water to freshwater, sea to land via beaches, freshwater to soil, and surface water to subterranean water. A superficially simple worm-like body and a mostly benthic/burrowing lifestyle has facilitated radiation into every conceivable environment, making annelids among the most common and diverse animal groups on the planet. View Full-Text
Keywords: adaptation; habitat; environment; morphology; physiology; behavior; invertebrate; Annelida adaptation; habitat; environment; morphology; physiology; behavior; invertebrate; Annelida
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MDPI and ACS Style

Glasby, C.J.; Erséus, C.; Martin, P. Annelids in Extreme Aquatic Environments: Diversity, Adaptations and Evolution. Diversity 2021, 13, 98.

AMA Style

Glasby CJ, Erséus C, Martin P. Annelids in Extreme Aquatic Environments: Diversity, Adaptations and Evolution. Diversity. 2021; 13(2):98.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Glasby, Christopher J., Christer Erséus, and Patrick Martin. 2021. "Annelids in Extreme Aquatic Environments: Diversity, Adaptations and Evolution" Diversity 13, no. 2: 98.

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