Polychaetes comprise the bulk of the diversity of Annelida (segmented worms) and are found in nearly every marine habitat, from intertidal algal mats to the deepest sediments. Since being formally named by Linnaeus in 1758 the number of accepted species level taxa has grown to around 9000, though it is certain that there are many more polychaetes to be described and that their importance in the diversity of marine animals will be increasingly recognised. After an introduction outlining the history of polychaete study, and a summary of the book's taxonomic layout, the authors proceed to discuss the methods of polychaete collection and how best to preserve them. This is followed by an overview of polychaete anatomy (with relevant terminology), and a discussion of polychaete systematics, fossils, and ideas about the phylogeny of the group. The remainder of the text is comprised of 72 taxonomic chapters that provide unprecedented coverage of polychaete diversity. Lavishly illustrated with colour plates, the beauty and variety of polychaetes has nowhere been better shown.
2: Palpata, Aciculata, Phyllodocida, Aphrodidiformia
3: Palpata, Aciculata, Phyllodocida, Nereidiformia
4: Palpata, Aciculata, Phyllodocida, unplaced
5: Palpata, Aciculata, Amphinomida
6: Palpata, Aciculata, Eunicida
7: Palpata, Aciculata unplaced
8: Palpata, Canalipalpata, Sabellida
9: Palpata, Canalipalpata, Terebellida, Cirratuliformia
10: Palpata, Canalipalpata, Terebellida, Terebelliformia
11: Palpata, Canalipalpata, Spionida
12: Palpata, Canalipalpata unplaced
13: 'Polychaetes' incertae sedis
"This introductory section is succeeded by the detailed comparisons, which are not only excellently illustrated but complemented by a handsome set of colour pictures. [...] Whilst the core of the book is systematic, the overview at the beginning of the book is concise and invaluable. [...] In this magnificent volume Greg Rouse and Fredrik Pleijel present a masterly, fascinating and encyclopaedic summary on this important group of animals."
– Geological Magazine
"[This book] is very well presented, with a swag of coloured photographs taken of live animals, some lovely micrographs of this amazing group of animals and line drawings for each family."
– Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology
"A book of this nature was clearly an enormous undertaking, and the authors are to be congratulated on the final product [...] will be of immense value to anyone intending to study, or currently investigating, Africa's rich polychaete fauna. [...] chapters are informative and are excellent as a quick reference for information on any taxon. If more detail is needed, readers will find the text well referenced."
– African Zoology