A reassessment of Capitella species (Polychaeta: Capitellidae) from Korean coastal waters, with morphological and molecular evidence

  • Man-Ki Jeong
  • Jin Hee Wi
  • Hae-Lip Suh
Original Paper


To date, specimens belonging to the genus Capitella Blainville, 1828 collected from Korean waters have been identified as C. capitata sensu Eisig, 1887 for over 35 years, depending almost totally on the description of Paik (Bull Korean Fish Soc 13:89–92, 1980), but consisted of the capitellid species examined in this study. Although the characteristics of 9 thoracic segments, thoracic chaetigers 1–7 with capillaries, and abdominal segments without branchiae or capillary chaetae correspond to C. capitata (Fabricius 1780), Korean capitellid specimens differ in a prostomium without deep dorsal depression, chaetigers 8–9 without neuropodial capillaries, chaetiger 8–9 of males without constriction, and high numbers of genital spines in males. Capitellid specimens from Korean waters resemble C. teleta Blake, Grassle & Eckelbarger, 2009 rather than C. capitata by the following morphological characteristics: presence of eyes, weak dorsal depression on prostomium, chaetigers 8–9 with neuropodial hooded hooks only, inflated chaetigers 8–9 of males, and 3–4 rows of teeth above the main fang. For precise identification of the Korean capitellid specimens, genetic analysis was performed, and the result revealed Capitella specimens of Korea genetically matched well with C. teleta of Ainan (0.4%) and Capitella spp. (0.2%) of Italy in partial cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI) gene comparison. Although there is little genetic difference between C. teleta from different areas, morphological differences in the shape of the prostomium and pygidium and the number of chaetae per fascicle suggest geographical variations in morphology caused by their adjacent environments. This result suggests the possibility of the existence of a species complex of C. teleta. In this study, genetic and morphological features of C. teleta of Korea are provided. In addition, a comprehensive comparison with previous records of C. capitata and C. teleta are conducted, and newly discovered intraspecific variations and the geographic distribution of C. teleta are discussed.


Capitella teleta complex DNA barcoding Intraspecific variation Invasive species Cosmopolitan species 



We would like to thank the anonymous reviewers and Dr. Dieter Fiege who made constructive and invaluable suggestions and comments. This study was a part of the project titled ‘Long-term change of structure and function in marine ecosystems of Korea’, funded by the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, Korea. This work was supported by the National Marine Biodiversity Institute Research Program (2016 M00300), funded by the National Marine Biodiversity Institute of Korea (MABIK).


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Copyright information

© Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of OceanographyChonnam National UniversityGwangjuSouth Korea
  2. 2.School of Environmental Science and EngineeringGwangju Institute of Science and TechnologyGwangjuSouth Korea

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