Functional anatomy of Polychaetes

MicroCT scan of the anterior of Phyllodoce lineata

Micro-CT scan of the anterior of Phyllodoce lineata showing the everted pharynx © Sarah Faulwetter

Principal Investigator

Dr Gordon Patterson

Project summary

  • Focus: To investigate the evolutionary relationships between different families of polychaetes by studying their functional anatomy using micro-CT scanning

We are developing methods to improve the study of functional anatomy in polychaetes, using non-damaging reversible staining and micro-CT.

We are assessing and describing the internal anatomy of the pharynx of polychaetes and relating these findings to the evolutionary relationships between different families.

The pharynx of polychaete worms is a complex arrangement of nerves and muscles. These features are compared when studying evolutionary relationships between polychaete families. 

X-ray micro-CT scanning technology

The pharynges of polychaetes can be imaged in great detail in less time than dissection and with no destruction of the specimen.

CT scanning provides virtual dissections that can be viewed along any plane or combined to form a 3D model of the specimen.

Preliminary results

A representative species of most families within the orders Phyllodocida and Eunicida has been scanned.

Museum staff


Biodiversity research

We are creating molecular and digital tools to explore undiscovered biodiversity.

Invertebrate research

Our scientists are investigating the taxonomy, systematics and biodiversity of groups of invertebrates.

Zoology collections

Our zoology collection has 29 million animal specimens and is rich in voucher, type and historical specimens.