One hundred and four specimens of Branchiomma luctuosum (Grube, 1870), a sabellid polychaete, were submitted to different anaesthetization and fixation procedures: a control group with living animals, immediate fixation with formaldehyde 4% (FO), ethanol 100% (AE) or ethanol 70% (ET), and anaesthetization with magnesium chloride (MC), refrigeration (RE), menthol crystals (ME) or freshwater (FW). Twenty-three morphometric variables of the body were measured and analysed with size-free multivariate statistics. The first three canonical variables explained 80% of the variation, being significantly correlated with 19 measured variables, mainly those related to the shape of the body setigers. Besides morphometric variables, some morphological characters commonly used in polychaete taxonomy also presented variation among fixation procedures, such as the release of parapodial elements and the integument. Among the procedures tested, AE, ET and FW were the best in approximating the shape of living specimens. Specimens submitted to FO and RE had shorter, wider, and thicker bodies, whereas those submitted to MC and ME were more elongated, narrower, flatter, and had wider pygidia than living specimens. Lengths of branchial crown, setiger 1 and pygidium seem to be the most informative morphometric characters for taxonomic purposes since they did not present deformation due to fixation procedures.
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