We are investigating venom in polychaetes, a group of carnivorous marine worms, to understand convergent evolution of venoms in different groups.
Venomics research has traditionally focused on a subsection of known venomous animals, such as snakes, scorpions, spiders and cone snails. Other venomous taxa, such as ticks, centipedes and polychaetes, have been less well studied.
This has led to a skewed understanding of venom evolution, biased towards the traditional groups. We aim to investigate two diverse groups of venomous marine polychaetes: the Glyceridae family of bloodworms and several families of scaleworms.
Bloodworms are known to have complex venom that they use to capture and subdue prey. They are also extensively harvested and used as bait in the multi-million dollar fishing industry. Little is known, however, about the composition, bioactivity or evolution of the toxins that comprise its venom cocktail.
Scaleworms are even less well understood. The presence of venom glands has only been reported for some species in several families, and nothing at all is known about scale worm venom composition.
Many methods will be used to gain a better understanding of polychaete venom. We will conduct:
General bloodworm morphology (unidentified species).
External view of Glycera jaw venom apparatus. The prostomium is the first body segment in annelid worms.
External morphology of Harmothoe imbricata (Linnaeus, 1767), a scaleworm.
The independent evolution of similar features in species of different lineages.
The effects of a substance on living matter, in this case venom.