Aphrodita aculeata

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Aphrodita aculeata
Aphrodita aculeata (Sea mouse).jpg
Aphrodita aculeata
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Annelida
Class: Polychaeta
Order: Phyllodocida
Suborder: Aphroditoidea
Family: Aphroditidae
Genus: Aphrodita
Species: A. aculeata
Binomial name
Aphrodita aculeata
Linnaeus, 1758[1]
Dorsal view, removed from water

Aphrodita aculeata, the sea mouse, is a marine polychaete worm found in the North Atlantic, the North Sea, the Baltic Sea and the Mediterranean. The sea mouse normally lies buried head-first in the sand. It has been found at depths of over 3,000 metres (9,800 ft).[2]


The name of the genus is taken from Aphrodite, the Ancient Greek goddess of love. This is because, when viewed ventrally, the animal resembles a human female's genitalia. The English name may either have a similar meaning, or may derive from the supposed resemblance to a bedraggled mouse when washed up on shore.[3] The specific name aculeata is the Latin for spiny.


The body of the sea mouse is covered in a dense mat of setae (hairlike structures).[4] Adults generally fall within a size range of 10 to 20 centimetres (3.9 to 7.9 in).

Structural coloration[edit]

The spines, or setae,[4] on the scaled back of the sea mouse are one of its unique features. Normally, these have a deep red sheen, warning off predators, but when the light shines on them perpendicularly, they flush green and blue, a "remarkable example of photonic engineering by a living organism". This structural coloration is a defense mechanism, giving a warning signal to potential predators. The effect is produced by many hexagonal cylinders within the spines, which "perform much more efficiently than man-made optical fibres".[5]


The sea mouse is an active predator[2] feeding primarily on small crabs, hermit crabs and other polychaete worms including Pectinaria and Lumbriconereis.[2] It has been observed consuming other polychaete worms over three times its own body length.[2] Feeding activity takes place at night, with the animal partially buried in sand.[2]


  1. ^ WoRMS: Aphrodita aculeata Linnaeus, 1758
  2. ^ a b c d e Tyler, Lizzie. "BIOTIC Species Information for Aphrodita aculeata". Biological Traits Information Catalogue. Retrieved 24 December 2014. 
  3. ^ Warren, Rebecca; van Zyl, Miezan; O'Rourke, Ruth; Tokeley, Amber; Heilman, Christine, eds. (2006). "Ocean Life". Ocean: The World's Last Wilderness Revealed (first American ed.). New York City: DK Publishing. p. 276. ISBN 978-0-7566-2205-3. 
  4. ^ a b "sea mouse". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. Retrieved April 26, 2012. 
  5. ^ "Sea mouse promises bright future". BBC News. BBC. January 3, 2001. Retrieved April 26, 2012. 

External links[edit]