Overview

Comprehensive Description

Description

 A polychaete worm that grows up to 40 mm in length. It is blood-red in colour and has the most earthworm-like appearance of all polychaetes. It lacks gills, eyes and head appendages and has insignificant parapodia. The chaetae are hair-like spines near the head and have crochet hooks towards the rear. The species is sedentary and fragile, with a flexible body.Capitella capitata represents a complex (Grassle & Grassle, 1976) of up to 50 sibling species (Mendez et al., 1997). Although each species within the complex differs in size, reproductive strategy and larval characteristics (Pearson & Pearson, 1991; Mendez et al., 1997), many studies not accounting for this variation have extrapolated the characteristics of one member to the aggregate as a whole (Grassle & Grassle, 1977). Thus, many detailed Capitella capitata studies exist that fail to determine to which particular species of the complex measured data actually apply (e.g. Grassle & Grassle, 1974). Caution should therefore be used when applying characteristics to subsets of the aggregate complex, as most species contained within it are data deficient.
 The species of this complex can be morphologically distinguished (with difficulty) by adult differences in chaetae structure and distribution, the number of segments possessing chaetae, the shape of the pro- and peristomium, the shape of the tail and average wet weight (Grassle & Grassle, 1977; Pearson & Pearson, 1991). Clearer differences may be observed in reproductive strategy and output, larval dispersal modes and timescales, responses to ecological disturbance, genetic profiles and through the inability of different forms to interbreed.
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Capitella capitata is a small benthic polychaete belonging to Family Capitellidae. The body is flexible, slender, elongated, and usually blood red in color. The conical, shovel-shaped head and reduced parapodia with chetae in both rami are useful diagnostic features. There is a single genital pore between chaetigers eight and nine, surrounded by cross spines in males.
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Distribution

Restricted to Arctic and subarctic localities (Blake, 2009). In CaRMS reported from Saguenay Fjord, northern Gaspe waters, downstream part of middle St. Lawrence estuary, Magdalen Islands (from eastern Bradelle valley to the west, as far as Cape North, including the Cape Breton Channel), lower St. Lawrence estuary; Prince Edward Island (from the northern tip of Miscou Island, N.B. to Cape Breton Island south of Cheticamp, including the Northumberland Strait and Georges Bay to the Canso Strait causeway); Cobscook Bay
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Capitella capitata is generally considered to be a cosmopolitan species in coastal marine and estuarine soft sediment systems. Grassle and Grassle (1976) used electrophoretic enzyme analysis to determine that the global population is actually made up of several genetically distinct (and apparently genetically isolated) sibling species whose distributions overlap such that local C. capitata populations actually consist of a number of co-occurring sibling species. Capitella capitata occurs throughout the soft sediment communities of the India River Lagoon.
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Physical Description

Size

Capitella capitata is a small polychaete worm. Specimens may reach 10 cm, but more often they are around 2 cm.
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Look Alikes

Capitella capitata is morphologically similar to a number of infaunal polychaetes, and positive identification to species level is generally beyond the scope of amateur naturalists.
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Ecology

Habitat

intertidal, bathyal, infralittoral and circalittoral of the Gulf and estuary
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Depth range based on 5609 specimens in 4 taxa.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 361 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): -1.18 - 3232
  Temperature range (°C): -1.212 - 27.678
  Nitrate (umol/L): 0.006 - 42.195
  Salinity (PPS): 10.036 - 39.051
  Oxygen (ml/l): 1.302 - 8.615
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.063 - 3.054
  Silicate (umol/l): 0.805 - 176.826

Graphical representation

Depth range (m): -1.18 - 3232

Temperature range (°C): -1.212 - 27.678

Nitrate (umol/L): 0.006 - 42.195

Salinity (PPS): 10.036 - 39.051

Oxygen (ml/l): 1.302 - 8.615

Phosphate (umol/l): 0.063 - 3.054

Silicate (umol/l): 0.805 - 176.826
 
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 Capitella capitata occurs on muddy sand, gritty sand, fine sand or rich mud on the lower shore to sub-littoral. It may be found under pebbles or small stones, with the burrows at or near the surface of the sediment. Capitella capitata is also frequently found in polluted or disturbed areas, such as harbours, near sewage outfalls and sludge dumps and in sediments contaminated with oil.
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Trophic Strategy

Capitella capitata is a deposit-feeding detrital consumer (Henriksson 1969, Levin et al. 1996). Individuals feed by everting a papillose sac-like proboscis to gather detrital deposits. Feeding is primarily non-selective, but gut contents usually include significant algal material, suggesting that some selection may occur (Fauchald and Jumars 1979).Tenore and Hanson (1980) demonstrated that detrital materials from different sources were of unequal nutritional value to C. capitata, with decay-resistant Spartina detritus being less available than periphyton or macroalgal detritus. Nutritional value of all types of detritus increased with aging, suggesting that microbial enrichment is an important aspect of benthic detrital energetics. Competitors: Capitella capitata thrive in the absence of intraspecific competition as early colonizers to benthic habitat patches that have been disturbed or otherwise defaunated as a result of environmental stress (Grassle and Grassle 1974, McCall 1977).While space may at times be a limiting factor, some experimental evidence exists suggesting that dietary resources are generally not limiting in most infaunal estuarine habitats (Wilson 1990, Bridges 1996). Predators: An array of benthic fish and invertebrate predators rely on infaunal polychaetes as a seasonally variable dietary resource (Marsh and Tenore 1990). Nelson and Capone (1990) experimentally demonstrated that specific predators impact various infaunal polychaete populations differently, depending on predator foraging strategy and prey species-specific distribution depth. Habitats: Capitella capitata is a component of a great many marine soft sediment communities, including vegetated and unvegetated benthic habitats as well as those with elevated nutrient loads or excess levels of other types of pollutants. It resides within mucus-lined burrows within the substratum (Henriksson 1969, Rosenberg 1976, Forbes and Lopez 1990). NOAA NBI ollections have revealed the presence of this species at depths ranging from inertidal to 57 m.This polychaete is a prototypical 'r-adapted' species, i.e., an opportunistic species with high growth, reproduction, and mortality rates. As with most such opportunistic species, C. capitata populations often show variable densities, including pronounced seasonal shifts in abundance (McCall 1977). Rapid growth and reproduction during periods of high food availability appear to push localized populations above carrying capacity, resulting in rapid population declines when resources become scarce and the needs of the population cannot be met. (Chesney and Tenore 1985a, b).
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Associations

Known predators

Capitella capitata is prey of:
Zoarces viviparus
Pleuronectes platessa
Platichthys flesus

Based on studies in:
Scotland (Estuarine)

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
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Known prey organisms

Capitella capitata preys on:
POM

Based on studies in:
Scotland (Estuarine)

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
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Population Biology

Infaunal polychaetes such as Capitella capitata can be extremely abundant, generally ranging between several hundred and several thousand individuals per square meter. Sears and Mueller (1989) report a peak seasonal numerical abundance of 22,000 individuals/m2 in a Galveston, TX, mixed-species assemblage consisting primarily of C. capitata, Streblospio benedicti, and Scoloplos foliosus. At other times during the study, abundance declined to a low of around 1,330 individuals/m2.
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Life History and Behavior

Reproduction

Male Capitella species I are capable of developing as simultaneous hermaphrodites, and they do so at greater frequency when females are scarce within the population (Petraitis 1985). Hermaphroditism in Capitella has been hypothesized to be an adaptation to conditions of low faunal density. However, since females do not become hermaphroditic and hermaphrodites don't self-fertilize, Petraitis (1985) suggests hermaphroditism in Capitella is an adaptation to reduce mate competition in small local populations.Animals reach sexual maturity at about 4 months in temperate waters, and somewhat faster in warmer areas (Warren 1976, Qian and Chia 1994). In the laboratory, animals became mature in 31-48 days at temperatures ranging around 12.6-22°C (Tsutsumi and Kikuchi 1984). Female produces from 100-1,000 eggs.
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Growth

Somewhat similar to the polychaete Streblospio benedicti, Capitella capitata exhibits both pelagic and non-pelagic (direct-developing) larval development strategies (Henriksson 1969, Rosenberg 1976).Forbes and Calow (2002) indicate that the Type M and Type I sibling C. capitata species are lecithotrophic (briefly planktonic), while the Type S sibling species is direct-developing. Lecithotrophic larvae are brooded during part of their development within the adult burrow tube (Grassle and Grassle 1974)Planktonic-developing Capitella capitata transition over several hours to several days through two distinct free-swimming larval stages (trochophore, metatrochophore) before undergoing metamorphosis and settlement to the benthos as a crawling worm (Biggers and Laufer 1996). This process can be accelerated in the laboratory within the span of an hour or less by exposing larvae to methyl farnesoate which has been shown to be stimulatory to early postembryonic larval stages of crustaceans as well (Laufer and Biggers 2001).Dubilier (1988) demonstrated that newly hatched Capitella species I could be induced to settle onto organic-enriched sediments in as little as 30 minutes. The addition of sulphide to experimental sediments delayed settlement by several hours as larvae apparently tried to avoid settling into sulphide-rich areas. Presented alone, however, sulphide induced settlement, in keeping with earlier findings by Cuomo (1985) that sulphide is a positive settlement cue associated with areas of nutrient enrishment.Hannan (1981) used collection jars to sample water column availability of C. capitata larvae and demonstrated that larval availability does not determine observed benthic settlement patterns. The author suggested that larval substratum choice and environmental hydrodynamic processes must also be considered when predicting or interpreting recruitment patterns.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Capitella capitata

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


No available public DNA sequences.

Download FASTA File
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Capitella capitata

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 9
Specimens with Barcodes: 9
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic/Ecological Importance: A large amount of trophic energy is transferred from Capitella capitata and other infaunal detritivores to benthic consumer levels (Marsh and Tenore 1990). Additionally, Capitella capitata is commonly employed as a pollution indicator species in environmental assessment studies (Reish 1957, Henriksson 1969).
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Wikipedia

Capitella capitata

The Capitella capitata is a polychaete worm that grows up to 10 cm in length. It is often blood-red in colour. The species is sedentary and fragile, with a flexible body.

Capitella capitata occurs on muddy sand, gritty sand, fine sand or rich mud on the lower shore to sub-littoral. It may be found under pebbles or small stones, with the burrows at or near the surface of the sediment.

It is an opportunistic species tolerant of stressful conditions, and often found in polluted waters (sewer discharges, hydrocarbons, metals ...) where it out-competes less tolerant species. A large abundance of C. capitata can be seen as an indication of polluted waters.[1]

C. capitata is able to vary its reproductive strategy in accordance with its current environmental conditions. If local conditions are favorable, it can produce benthic larvae facilitating quick exploitation of local concentrations of organic matter. In contrast, C. capitata can produce planktonic larvae if there is a need to discover new habitats.[2]

  1. ^ R.B. Clark, "Marine Pollution", Clarendon Press, 1997
  2. ^ J.F. Grassle and J.P. Grassle, "Opportunistic life histories and genetic systems in marine benthic polychaetes", J. Mar. Res. 3:253-284, 1974


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