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Aphrodita aculeata (Sea mouse).jpg
Aphrodita aculeata
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Annelida
Class: Polychaeta
Order: Phyllodocida
Suborder: Aphroditoidea
Family: Aphroditidae
Genus: Aphrodita
Type species
Aphrodita aculeata
Linnaeus, 1758

See text

Dorsal view, removed from water

Aphrodita, or sea mouse, is a genus of marine polychaete worms found in the Mediterranea sea and the eastern and western Atlantic Ocean.[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 body of the sea mouse is covered in a dense mat of parapodia and setae (hairlike structures).[2] Adults generally fall within a size range of 7.5 to 15 centimetres (3.0 to 5.9 in), but some grow to 30 centimetres (12 in).

Structural coloration[edit]

The spines, or setae,[2] on the scaled back of the sea mouse are one of its unique features. Normally, these have a deep red sheen, 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".[4]


Aphrodita are typically scavengers.[2] However, Aphrodita aculeata is an active predator,[5] feeding primarily on small crabs, hermit crabs and other polychaete worms including Pectinaria and Lumbriconereis.[5]


Species recognized by the World Register of Marine Species:[1]


  1. ^ a b Fauchald, Kristian; Bellan, Gérard (2008). "Aphrodita Linnaeus, 1758". World Polychaeta database. World Register of Marine Species. Retrieved 28 July 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d "sea mouse". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. Retrieved April 26, 2012.
  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. ^ "Sea mouse promises bright future". BBC News. BBC. January 3, 2001. Retrieved April 26, 2012.
  5. ^ a b Tyler, Lizzie. "BIOTIC Species Information for Aphrodita aculeata". Biological Traits Information Catalogue. Retrieved 24 December 2014.

External links[edit]