Any of about 5,400 species of marine worms of the annelid class Polychaeta, having a segmented body with many setae (bristles) on each segment. Species, often brightly coloured, range from less than 1 in. (2.5 cm) to about 10 ft (3 m) long. Most body segments bear two bristly parapodia (lobelike outgrowths). The head has short sensory projections and tentacles. Adults may be free-swimming or sedentary; larvae are free-swimming. Found worldwide, polychaetes are important for turning over sediment on the ocean bottom. One species, the bloodworm, is a popular saltwater fish bait. See also tube worm.
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