Morphological distinction between estuarine polychaetes: Laeonereis culveri and L. nota (Phyllodocida: Nereididae)
The family Nereididae includes more than 500 polychaete species described worldwide, and includes species common in many benthic environments, but some other species may tolerate freshwater or can even thrive in humid substrates in tropical forests. In estuarine environments, nereidid polychaetes can be abundant and relevant as a food source for resident or migratory birds. Laeonereis culveri (Webster, 1879) is a common estuarine species found in tropical and subtropical Atlantic American shores and was described from New Jersey; its median and posterior parapodia have upper notopodial ligules usually longer than the lower ones, and the latter are parallel to the notaciculae throughout the body. L. culveri distribution is from Connecticut to central Argentina; however, this wide distribution might be due to the inclusion of several other species as junior synonyms, despite that some morphological differences were found between them. One of such species is L. nota (Treadwell, 1941), that was described from Texas; its parapodia have notopodial ligules of about the same size, and the lower ones are oblique to the notaciculae. In order to clarify the differences between these two species, and to define which inhabits the Northwestern Caribbean region, topotype materials from these two species and specimens from Chetumal Bay were collected, and their morphological features were compared. Our results indicated that L. culveri and L. nota are different species and that the latter is found in Chetumal Bay. On the basis of mature specimens, L. culveri is hereby restricted to the Northern Gulf of Mexico and Northwestern Atlantic Ocean, and L. nota are reinstated and its distribution extends from Texas, in the Gulf of Mexico to Chetumal Bay, in the Northwestern Caribbean Sea. A key to identify all species in Laeonereis Hartman (1945) is also included.