Published online by Cambridge University Press: 11 May 2009
Eggs of the syllid polychaete Atnblyosyllis speciosa are deposited in benthic gelatinous masses. Embryos and larvae develop within these masses until about three weeks after fertilization, after which they crawl or swim away and metamorphose. Only one other syllid, the Mediterranean Syllides edentula, has been reported to form benthic egg masses.
While some syllid polychaetes spawn gametes freely into the water column where they are fertilized and develop without additional parental care, most species protect developing embryos in some fashion. Four modes of brood protection have been reported in the syllids. Protection of embryos within the ventral brood chamber of a planktonic adult is characteristic of members of the subfamily Autolytinae, and of some members of the Eusyllinae (Garwood, 1991). Physical attachment of embryos to the body of the maternal parent (external gestation) occurs in all members of the Exogoninae and in a few eusyllines (Heacox & Schroeder, 1978; Garwood, 1991). Viviparity is less common, having been reported in a few species in the subfamily Syllinae (Schroeder & Hermans, 1975; Ben-Eliahu, 1975) and in one exogonine (Pocklington & Hutcheson, 1983). Finally, the formation of benthic egg masses has been described in only one species, the eusylline Syllides edentula Claparède (Cognetti-Varriale, 1971).
In this study the benthic egg masses and development of another eusylline, Amblyosyllis speciosa Izuka, 1912, are described. In December 1995, at the Friday Harbor Laboratories (FHL), Washington, USA, five adult worms were found on a bivalve shell heavily infested with the boring sponge Cliona sp. Additional specimens and egg masses were collected in June 1996 and April-June 1997 from encrusting sponges on the FHL breakwater.