A sedentary, burrowing polychaete worm up to 3 cm long and 0.7-1 cm wide. The body has up to 180 segments but is not divided into distinct regions. Polydora ciliata has two very long, slender ciliated palps which protrude, waving vigorously and usually roll up spirally when the animal is disturbed. The tip of the posterior region is saucer shaped. Polydora ciliata is yellowish-brown in colour.There has been some confusion in the identification of Polydora ciliata because the characteristics used for separation of the species, such as the number of modified chaetae on the fifth segment, are not stable even in individuals from the same locality. It has been suggested that some other species of Polydora such as P. ligni, P. websteri, P. cirrosa and P. nuchalis may only be varieties of Polydora ciliata (Mustaquim, 1986).
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