Marine Life Society of South Australia Inc.


November 2005   No. 327

understanding, enjoying & caring for our oceans”


Next Meeting

This will be the November Meeting and will be held at the Conservation Centre, 120 Wakefield Street, Adelaide on Wednesday  16th November commencing at 7.30pm.


Our speaker will be John Emmett who will be discussing MPA’s.



Queenscliff Marine Discovery Centre (Philip Hall)           

Greg Rouse’s Marine Worm (& Feather Star) Research Part 1 (Steve Reynolds)   


This is the final newsletter for 2005 and I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a very Happy Christmas and a really great New Year. I look forward to seeing you all at the first meeting in 2006 on the 18th January.

There will of course be a Journal sent out to members in December. At the time of writing this I am not certain if a PDF version will be possible due to the large graphic content which means the size might be too great to send. It will be on our website in colour of course.

Philip Hall




Articles for YOUR Newsletter are always required. The more people who write articles then the wider the topic spread. Please do not leave it up to just a few. Articles of any length are welcome.


This Newsletter

The hardcopy of the Newsletter is in black and white as usual. If members prefer a colour PDF version then please email me.


Queenscliff Marine Discovery Centre

by Philip Hall


During our short September holiday in Melbourne to see the Dutch Masters display at the Art Gallery we went via Queenscliff so we could visit the Marine Discovery Centre there.

It used to be housed in a building near the Sorrento ferry terminal. It was rather run down when we visited it some years ago so when we heard it had been recently rebuilt we decided to pay it a visit. It is now housed in an award winning building a couple of kilometres before the town itself.

As you can see from the picture much care has been taken with the design from environmental and aesthetic points of view.


The Centre opens at 10.00am so we were the first there. The friendly staff member warned us that a large group of very young children was expected so we quickly entered the main area. We stared in amazement at the large number of aquaria in view, of different sizes and beautifully clean and well lit built into the walls.

The tanks were all full of creatures and were often dedicated to just one species. For example the seajellies had their own tank as did the octopus and the seahorses. Others had to share and many familiar creatures and fish can be studied.

One tank contained the Pacific Seastar; I have never seen such a large seastar before. They were huge.


The only criticism we had was the large touch pool in the centre of the floor. (You must know my views on the handling of marine creatures). In it were mainly seastars and urchins. Again the water was crystal clear and beautifully lit. Small platforms around the outside were arranged for smaller children to stand on.

A separate teaching room was equipped with TV and video, comfortable seats and carpet and plenty of items to inspect around the walls. One wall had a beautiful glass mural built into it. (Below)

Other areas included one with so many items we could have spent hours there checking them all out. The way they were displayed was excellent. They were in small wooden boxes, some were open and others with more delicate items had plastic fronts.

One wall faced out onto Port Philip Bay and long slit windows low down would enable children (or crouching adults) to watch the many birds on the water or in the reed beds.

The Centre is only a small part of the complex. Other organisations occupy the rest and I assume they are all marine based.


We left in time to catch the 11.00am ferry to Sorrento very impressed with the quality of the Centre and vowing to return in a few years time to see how it progresses.

All in all well worth a visit the next time you are in the area. By the way, it is only open on weekdays.


Greg Rouse’s Marine Worm (& Feather Star) Research

by Steve Reynolds


I first heard about the work of Dr Greg Rouse from the SA Museum when I read The Advertiser dated 22nd March 2002. There was a report about a student from the University of Adelaide studying feather stars. The student was Lauren Johnston and her study was said to be “being overseen by museum research scientist and marine expert Greg Rouse”. (More on this later.)

On 6th May 2002 The Advertiser reported that Greg had an ongoing mystery about a strange, glowing blue worm living in the mud at St Kilda in SA. Anglers had long told stories about the strange, mysterious worm which could grow as long as 1m.

Greg had not long arrived in SA when he found a jar of the strange worms in the SA Museum archives, together with a manuscript-length analysis on the worm. This had been written by the late Dr Shane Parker, a former museum researcher. He wrote it about 1992, just before he died. The jar of specimens had been lost during a ‘reshuffle’ at the museum. Once rediscovered by Greg, it became one of his major projects. The blue-glowing worm was a eunicid, a species of worm from the family Eunicidae. Greg plans to name it in honour of Dr Parker.

In that May issue of The Advertiser, Greg was calling for anyone finding unusual sea creatures to let him know about it immediately. The article also reported that Greg had co-authored a book about polychaete worms with Fredrik Pleijel, the French scientist, in 2001. That book would be “Polychaetes” by GW Rouse & F Pleijel, Oxford University Press, London, 2001. Greg has still to find a live specimen of the blue worm.

Polychaetes are bristle worms which form part of the Phylum Annelida that also includes leeches and earthworms.

Greg was in the news again in October 2003. The Advertiser dated 4th October reported more about Greg’s work including how he would take pictures of marine creatures through a stereo-microscope. The pictures were usually breathtaking and he entered one of them in the Nikon 2003 Small World Photomicrography Competition.

His photo was of a polychaete worm, Myrianida pachycera (formerly Autolytus pachycerus) (Family Syllidae), collected from Bondi in New South Wales. It can be seen on the first (title) page of the web page at .

It is the first of four species featured there.

(Syllids (species from the Family Syllidae) are described in “Marine Invertebrates of Southern Australia – Part 1” (Marine Inverts. 1) as being from “a diverse group of worms”. They are described in detail on pages 241-2 of the book edited by SA Shepherd and IM Thomas.)

The special microscope magnified the worm 60 times. The shot won him Second Prize out of about1200 entries in the photo competition.


 Autolytus pachycerus

Greg said that Myrianida pachycera is fairly common and can be found on algae on inter-tidal rocks all around the SA coast. “The worm is about a quarter of the length of a fingernail, people are usually walking on these things,” he said.

It was reported by The Advertiser at the time that the gallery of images entered in the photo competition could be seen at .

In 2004 the Marine Life Society of SA invited Greg along to our April General Meeting to give a presentation about marine worms and to help us with identification of some of the worm slides in our Photographic Index of SA Marine Life. He agreed to come along to talk to us.

Greg started his presentation off by showing us a video of spawning cuttlefish at Whyalla. At the end of the video he proceeded with his prepared talk on marine worms. He discussed, for example, polychaete worms (Phylum Annelida). He said that polychaetes used to be divided into two Orders – Errantia and Sedentaria. Polychaete worms were arranged into these two groups according to whether they are ‘free-wandering’ (Errantia) or they are modified for a permanent life in tubes or sand-burrows (Sedentaria).

(I later asked Greg about this and he directed me to

which included comments about ‘Errantia’ and ‘Sedentaria’. I have kept a file copy of the web page. More about this later.)

Greg’s talk in was illustrated by the use of a digital projector. He went on to say that (world-wide) there are more than 9,000 species of polychaete worms.

(This is also explained on the web page at

where it says “Around 9000 species of polychaetes are currently recognized with several thousand more names in synonymy, and the overall systematics of the group remains unstable.”)

Greg then told us of two surveys that had been done under the Edithburgh jetty on SA’s Yorke Peninsula. Myzostome worms and their crinoid (feather-stars) hosts were discussed, including stalked crinoids (or sea lilies). He told us about the recent naming of two new worm species – Myzostoma australe and Myzostoma seymourcollegiorum.

(The naming of these two Myzostoma worms was reported in our February 2004 Newsletter (No.307) in the article titled “New Bluff Resident Discovered”. Greg discovered Myzostoma australe, however, in the waters of the Nuyts Archipelago near Ceduna during the Encounter 2002 Expedition to the Isles of St Francis. It was Myzostoma seymourcollegiorum that he found in Encounter Bay, Victor Harbor (at the Bluff) in 2003. More about this later.)

Greg told us about the SA Museum’s marine photographic index which can be viewed at

(At the time of writing, the site is undergoing rebuilding but it should be up again soon.) He then went on to tell us about the discovery of two new species of worms found living on the bones of a 9-10m long dead Gray Whale, Eschrichtius robustus. (I later found some details about these two new species of worms on the Internet. More details about this follow shortly.)

At the end of Greg’s presentation he was able to help us to identify some of the worm slides in our Photo Index. This allowed us to tidy up the details of worms in our Photo Index a little bit.

Now, here is my version of some details that I found on the Internet about the discovery of the two new species of worms found living on the bones of a dead Gray Whale: -

Researchers from the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Research Institute were studying clam ecology when they made the discovery. They found the first of the worms on 8th February 2002. They were using a remotely operated submarine (called Tiburon, after the Spanish for shark) which discovered the Gray Whale carcass at a depth of 2,891m in the Monterey Canyon (Monterey Bay, California).

When they got the whale rib bone to the surface, they immediately knew that they were dealing with something totally different. At first, the researchers were at a loss to determine what kind of creature they had found.

Further remotely operated submarine dives were made to collect more specimens of worms from the same Gray Whale carcass. A piece of vertebra and another rib were both collected on 7th August 2002.

Two species of worm were found on the whale carcass. These worms were quite strange in that they had neither eyes or a stomach, and not even any mouth. The worms range in size from 25 to 63mm long. They have colourful, feathery plumes that serve as gills. They also have green ‘roots’ that work their way into the bones of dead whales. Bacteria living in the worms digest the fats and oils in the whalebone. The researchers named the worms, a new genus, Osedax, which is Latin for ‘bone eating’.

Researcher Dr Robert Vrijenhoek said “The worms provide insight into the cycling of carbon that reaches the bottom of the ocean. A dead whale delivers the equivalent of 2000 years of  'marine snow' drifting to the bottom where carbon is fixed into organic molecules. Marine snow is made up of bits of dead fish and other matter that settle to the floor of the sea, feeding many creatures there. The worms turn whalebone fats into worm eggs and larvae that are carried away from the carcass to produce new worms (or to be eaten and dispersed by other animals). This discovery adds to the limited knowledge we have about what happens to organic carbon on the bottom of the ocean”.

The researchers were puzzled when all of the worms were found to be female. Greg Rouse took some to his laboratory for study and discovered tiny male worms living inside the tubes of females. There were up to100 or more males with each female.




One of the dissected worms. The green tissue is where the bacteria are found and part of it has been torn, exposing the white ovary.

Photograph of one of the dissected Osedax worms (courtesy of Greg Rouse).


Bacteria are found in the green tissue and part of it has been torn, exposing the white ovary.

The males still contained bits of yolk, as if they had never developed past their larval stage, but they also contained large amounts of sperm. The female worms, regardless of size, were full of eggs.

Dr Vrijenhoek said that a whale carcass might last for decades before it is fully consumed. The carcasses (‘whale fall’) tend to be found along migration routes so that eggs dispersed from one whale-eating worm may find another carcass nearby. He also said that the worms have no mouth, no guts, no obvious segments like all worms are supposed to have.

He said that they look very much like little miniature versions of the strange worms discovered living around hydrothermal vents in the oceans. These vents are cracks in the ocean floor where very hot, mineral-rich water bubbles out from the earth's crust. When the team extracted DNA from the new worms they discovered that they were indeed related to the giant vent worms. The vent worms have colonies of bacteria allowing them to live off sulphides released from the vents, while the new worms have bacteria that digest fats from bones.

The new whalebone worms were divided into two species, Osedax rubiplumus (for their red feathery gills) and O. frankpressi (in honor of Frank Press). Frank is a former President of the National Academy of Sciences who recently retired from the board of the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Research Institute.

The researchers concluded that the most recent common ancestor of the worms lived roughly 42m years ago, about the same time whales themselves first evolved. This is all explained in the paper “Osedax: Bone-eating Marine Worms with Dwarf Males” by GW Rouse, SK Goffredi & RC Vrijenhoek (under “Molecular-clock calibration”). A copy of this paper is now being held in the MLSSA library.

Paratypes of both worm species are being held at both the Los Angeles County Museum and the South Australian Museum. Additional material is being held by the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Research Institute and as histological slides at the SA Museum.

The Osedax worm research was funded by the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, the National Science Foundation and the South Australian Museum.

I asked Greg for the full classification details for Osedax. He told me “Osedax is in the group (more inclusive as you go along) Siboglinidae, Sabellida, Canalipalpata, Annelida. The group Siboglinidae used to be outside Annelida and was actually two separate phyla, Pogonophora and Vestimentifera. Some of my research showed that these two groups belonged together and inside Annelida. The name changed back to the first group name which was Siboglinidae from 1914”.

Greg Rouse participated in the “Encounter 2002” scientific expedition to the Isles of St Francis in the Nuyts Archipelago in the Great Australian Bight (SA). He joined some of our state’s leading botanists, marine biologists and archaeologists including Dr Sue Murray-Jones and Dr Scoresby Shepherd (our Patron). The team of 28 scientists went on board the RV Ngerin for the 11-day expedition in February 2002.

My article “My Continuing “Encounter” Experiences” in our 2004 MLSSA Journal reported that the scientists “discovered eight new species of jellyfish. The results of the expedition were released in the “South Australian Geographical Journal”, the Journal of the Royal Society of South Australia. These (jellyfish) details were reported in our February 2004 Newsletter (No.307)” (following the report about Greg Rouse’s Myzostoma worms).

Greg’s discovery of Myzostoma australe was also reported in the “South Australian Geographical Journal”, the Journal of the Royal Society of South Australia. His description is reported in the article “Encounter 2002 Expedition to the Isles of St Francis, South Australia: Myzostoma australe (Myzostomida), A new crinoid associated worm from South Australia” in the “Transactions of the Royal Society of S.Aust (2003).

In his opening summary, Greg wrote that “No Myzostomida have been described from southern Australian waters. Most of the described myzostome taxa to date have been found in the warmer waters of the Indo-Pacific, where their crinoid hosts are most diverse. In this paper a new myzostome, Myzostoma australe n.sp., is described from the crinoid Ptilometra macronema (Muller 1846) (Ptilometridae) taken from waters off the Nuyts Archipelago, near Ceduna, South Australia”.

He went on to say that “Myzostoma australe is an ectocommensal on P. macronema and somewhat resembles other Myzostoma informally placed as the ‘ambiguum’ group by Grygier (1990). It differs from these in having a markedly ellipsoidal body with an oval arrangement of parapodia displaced forward, combined with the anterior two pairs and posterior pair of cirri being longer than the rest. There has previously been no myzostome recorded from any species of Ptilometra”. More details about Ptilometra macronema later.

Greg’s article went on to describe Myzostomida in the Introduction and the numbers of species recorded from around the Australian coast. Myzostome expert Mark J Grygier indicated one species of myzostome from SA waters but did not describe or name it. He had indicated in 1990 that his myzostome species (No.37) occurs on the comasterid crinoid Cenolia trichoptera (Muller, 1846).

(This ends Part 1 - The second part will be in the January Newsletter)





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