from the South Pacific are relatively well studied, because the annual
risings are not only major festivities for the locals, but have also attracted
the attention of biologists and anthropologists since the 18th century.
It was noted that the swarming worms were headless. For a long time, it
was a mystery where the heads were. Grays (1847) first scientific
description of a Samoan Palolo worm was based on the headless portion
only, later called the epitoke. He called the species Palola viridis,
the genus name being derived from the Samoan name, and the species name
meaning green. At the end of the 19th century, Friedländer (1898)
and Krämer (1899) independently discovered that the worms spend most
of their lifetime burrowing in hard substrate. Only once a year, their
hind ends break off and swim spiralling to the surface to shed eggs and
sperm. This reproductive frenzy only lasts for a few hours. Over the course
of the next year, the head ends (or atokes) regenerate and eventually
produce new epitokes.
In parts of the world where Palolos do not rise or where the rising is not of cultural importance, they received less scientific attention than Palola viridis from the South Pacific. Yet Palola species have been recorded from all major oceans (see map/Fig. 5 and Table 1).
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