Worms by number

Document Type


Department or Administrative Unit


Publication Date



This paper investigates alternation patterns in length, shape and orientation of dorsal cirri (fleshy segmental appendages) of phyllodocidans, a large group of polychaete worms (Annelida). We document the alternation patterns in several families of Phyllodocida (Syllidae, Hesionidae, Sigalionidae, Polynoidae, Aphroditidae and Acoetidae) and identify the simple mathematical rule bases that describe the progression of these sequences. Two fundamentally different binary alternation patterns were found on the first four segments: 1011 for nereidiform families and 1010 for aphroditiform families. The alternation pattern in all aphroditiform families matches a simple one-dimensional cellular automaton and that for Syllidae (nereidiform) matches the Fibonacci string sequence. Hesionidae (nereidiform) showed the greatest variation in alternation patterns, but all corresponded to various known substitution rules. Comparison of binary patterns of the first 22 segments using a distance measure supports the current ideas on phylogeny within Phyllodocida. These results suggest that gene(s) involved in post-larval segmental growth employ a switching sequence that corresponds to simple mathematical substitution rules.


This article was originally published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

Due to copyright restrictions, this article is not available for free download from ScholarWorks @ CWU.


Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences


© 2008 The Royal Society