Flabelligerid worm 

Pherusa sp. 1

View scientific description and taxonomy

Scientific Details

Family level description.
Flabelligeridae are short-bodied grub-like worms which are usually recognisable from their conspicuous anterior "cage" of long chaetae enclosing the anterior end and a dense covering of papillae over most of the body. They also have paired grooved palps, interramal papillae and spines only in the neuropodia (ventral foot). Chaetae include pseudo-segmented capillaries and, in some taxa, compound short-bladed chaetae.

Species level technical description.
Body shape anteriorly inflated with tapering posterior end. Body texture papillated, anteriorly in transverse rows, covered with firmly fixed and close set sand grains; papillae not very prominent. Body surface without a thick translucent sheath. Body narrows dramatically after segment 20. Cephalic cage present (long forwardly directed irridescent chaetae which enclose the head), formed from chaetae of segment range 1-2; cephalic cage well developed with 40-50 chaetae; about half the body length. Oral cavity long cylindrical tube absent. Branchiae present, 6-15 pairs, in a single row; Branchial membrane short and rounded or triangular; cylindrical branchial filaments with a pair of longitudinal crimson bands as a semicircular arc along the margin of the cephalic hood. Notochaetae cross-barred capillary. Neurochaetae all capillaries, cross-barred but non-articulate; neurochaetae project more prominently from the anterior segments than the posterior and have a curved distal region with no cross-bars; neurochaetae start on segment 3.



General Description

In members of this genus the body is anteriorly inflated, the surface has papillae arranged mostly in transverse rows and there is a single row of branchiae. Body up to about 5 cm long.


There has been no taxonomic study of southern Australian Flabelligeridae since Haswell described several species in 1892, and although at least 3 genera occur in our region, the identity of .local species remains uncertain. Pherusa is the most common flabelligerid in Port Phillip Bay. There appear to be at least 3 species in our region, distinguishable by the number of pairs of branchiae (6 pairs, 10 pairs, or 15 pairs).


Inshore including bays and estuaries, on muddy bottoms, sometimes among seagrass.

Seagrass meadows

Soft substrates

Distribution guide

South-eastern Australia.

Species Group

Worms Flabelligerid worms


Shore (0-1 m)
Shallow (1-30 m)

Water Column

On or near sea floor

Max Size

5 cm

Commercial Species


Global Dispersal

Native to Australia

Species Code

sp. 1


Conservation Status

  • DSE Advisory List : Not listed
  • EPBC Act 1999 : Not listed
  • IUCN Red List : Not listed


article author Wilson, R.

Robin Wilson is a Senior Curator of marine invertebrates at Museum Victoria.


Cite this page as:
Wilson, R., 2011, Flabelligerid worm, Pherusa , in Taxonomic Toolkit for marine life of Port Phillip Bay, Museum Victoria, accessed 12 Jul 2020,

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