"Vermes" – University of Copenhagen

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Zoological Museum > Collections > Invertebrates > "Vermes"

"VERMES" (phyla consisting primarily of macrofauna)

This section of the museum houses the collections of five phyla: Annelida (including Pogonophora and thus also Vestimentifera), Echiura, Sipuncula, Priapula, and Chaetognatha. Among them, emphasis in collection and research has historically been placed on the polychaetous annelids, although present holdings of some of the other groups are considerable in size and scope. For this reason, the following historical review and description of the collections will be based primarily on the former group, with others being mentioned as appropriate.

Historical background:
The origins of the "worm" collection of the Zoological Museum, Copenhagen can be traced to the 17th Century, but the first truly large contributions derive from the sampling efforts of various workers in Greenland during the end of the 18th Century (published on primarily by Fabricius and O. F. Müller) and in the Danish West Indies during the first half of the 19th Century (published on by Krøyer, Mörch, Ørsted and Grube).
Since that time, the major source of material for the collections has been the participation of Danish zoologists in various expeditions. Several of these expeditions concentrated on Greenland or other areas of the North Atlantic (e.g., Dijmphna, Tjalfe and Ingolf), whereas others were more world-wide in scope (e.g., Dana, the various expeditions led by Th. Mortensen, Atlantide and Galathea).
Finally, the responsible curators of this century (Levinsen, Ditlevsen, Wesenberg-Lund, Kirkegaard, Eibye-Jacobsen) have further assured the growth of the collections through the sampling efforts of specific individuals (in recent times most notably Rasmussen, Petersen and Eibye-Jacobsen) and the extensive exchange of material with other, similar institutions throughout the world.

The collections:
The polychaete collections are presently estimated to consist of about 100,000 lots. Registration of the type material, as well as newly accessed and other particularly valuable material, is presently being carried out. On this basis it is estimated that these collections contain the type specimens of about 400 species. The material comes from a multitude of sources, many of which were mentioned above.
The geographical areas in which the collection has particular strengths are Denmark, the North Atlantic, Greenland, the east coast of the United States, the Caribbean, West Africa, South Africa, the Persian Gulf, Thailand, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific coast of Central America.
The collections are remarkable in containing a great deal of material from some of the deepest regions of the world's oceans.
Systematic representation is broad for almost all known families of polychaetes, but especially outstanding in Nereididae, Phyllodocidae, Cirratulidae, Chaetopteridae, Sabellidae and Serpulidae, as well as in most holoplanktonic families. Of great potential value are the large numbers of as yet unidentified lots from the Indian and Pacific Oceans, primarily collected during the various expeditions led by Th. Mortensen.

The holdings of the other main group of annelids, the Clitellata (oligochaetes and hirudineans), contain about 20,000 lots (approximately 50 types). Representation is particularly good for the fauna of Denmark and West Africa due to recent collection efforts (Clausen).

The Vermes section contains about 5,000 lots of Echiura, Sipuncula and Priapula, most of which were collected in the present century. The most significant part of these collections is the echiurid and sipunculid material (especially from the North Atlantic, the Mediterranean, West Africa and the Indian Ocean) that was worked up and published on by Wesenberg-Lund, including the type material of about 30 species.

Holdings of the small annelid group Pogonophora (including Vestimentifera) are considerable, encompassing approximately 1,000 lots. The most notable components of this collection are extensive pogonophoran material from the Skagerrak (including the type material of several species described by Kirkegaard) and a few extremely well preserved vestimentiferans (Riftia) from hydrothermal vents of the West Pacific.

Finally, the museum's collection of the primarily planktonic phylum Chaetognatha is considerable in size, containing about 1,000 lots. This collection is largely composed of unidentified material from the South Atlantic, in excellent condition and of great potential value to taxonomists. Much of the material was collected during the Dana, Godthaab and Thor expeditions.

Current research:
Systematic and comparative anatomical investigations into the interrelationships of Polychaeta at the family level (Eibye-Jacobsen). - Taxonomic and revisional work on various families of Polychaeta (Eibye-Jacobsen, Petersen). - Faunistic/taxonomic work on Polychaeta from Iceland and the Faroe Islands (Eibye-Jacobsen, Petersen), Denmark (Eibye-Jacobsen, Kirkegaard), Arctic Canada (Eibye-Jacobsen), the east coast of the United States (Petersen), and Thailand (Eibye-Jacobsen, Petersen). - Morphological and anatomical studies of Spionidae, Polychaeta (Worsaae). - Taxonomic and anatomical investigations on Oligochaeta, primarily from West Africa (Clausen).

Responsible curator: Reinhardt Møbjerg Kristensen