Image: Myrianida pachycera (Augener, 1913)
Family Syllidae: Myrianida pachycera (Augener, 1913). (Specimen from Ben Buckler rocks on Bondi Beach, Sydney, photographed alive in the laboratory)
- Greg Rouse
- © Greg Rouse
The photograph shows a mode of reproduction called “stolonisation”, in which long chains of miniature clones (or “stolons”) are formed, in this species from the tail end of the parent or “stock”, and a few mm in length. The head of this carnivorous worm is on the bottom left, and midway along the body a series of stolons are forming like linked train carriages, but with new ‘carriages’ being inserted behind the parent ‘locomotive’, not behind the last carriage. The posterior-most stolon is about to break free and swim off, to be followed by the next four individuals. Although often considered a form of asexual reproduction, stoIonisation is intimately connected with sexual reproduction, and is a very efficient way to disseminate gametes quickly - egg and sperm produced by the parent worm are transferred to the stolons which carry them away. The stolons are incapable of regenerating into complete worms that feed independently, but are merely a way for the species to swarm and spawn in great numbers, then die.