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Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Annelida
Class: Polychaeta
Order: Aciculata
Family: Tomopteridae
Genus: Tomopteris
Eschscholtz, 1825[1]

Tomopteris catharina
Tomopteris elegans
Tomopteris helgolandica
Tomopteris pacifica
Tomopteris planctonis
Tomopteris nisseni
Tomopteris renata
Tomopteris cavalli
Tomopteris septentrionalis Steenstrup

Tomopteris (Neo-Latin from Greek meaning "a cut" + "wing" but taken to mean "fin")[2] is a genus of marine planktonic polychaete. All described species are known to be holopelagic, meaning that they spend their entire life cycles in the water column.[3]

E. Newton Harvey had noted the unusual, yellow bioluminescence[4] occurring from the parapodia. There are very few known marine animals that exhibit yellow luminescence.[5][6] Many species of plankton are known to display this property of bioluminescence.[7] The mechanisms of this process are not well understood; only that they do not use any of the currently known luciferins. If disturbed, a few species are known to release bioluminescent particles from their parapodia, though possibly all species of Tomopteris do this. It is thought that this mode is to distract predators, analogous to chaff or flares dispensed from military aircraft during evasive maneuvers.

Generally they grow to only a few centimeters in overall length, or 20 millimetres (0.79 in) to 40 millimetres (1.6 in) in total length, though this is likely to reflect the size of those amenable to being caught in trawl nets.[8]


  1. ^ ITIS Standard Report Page: Tomopteris
  2. ^ Definition: tomopteris from Online Medical Dictionary
  3. ^ Fernandez-Alamo, MA (2000). "Tomopterids (Annelida: Polychaeta) from the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean". Bulletin of marine science. 67 (1): 45–53. 
  4. ^ Harvey, Edmund Newton (1952). Bioluminescence. Academic Press. 
  5. ^ "tomopteris". UCSB. ucsb. Retrieved 10 December 2013. 
  6. ^ Tomopteris picture
  7. ^ Dales, R Phillips (1971). "Bioluminescence in Pelagic Polychaetes". Journal of the Fisheries Research Board of Canada. 28 (10): 1487–1489. doi:10.1139/f71-228. 
  8. ^ "Tomopteris helgolandica". Species-Identification. Retrieved 10 December 2013.