The perceived cosmopolitanism of polychaete worms could be an artefact of historical factors such as poor original species descriptions, lack of type material and the European taxonomic bias, to name a few. Thus, it is possible that several cosmopolitan species hide complexes of cryptic and pseudocryptic species. Two putative cosmopolitan species, Platynereis dumerilii and Platynereis australis, collected in South Africa were investigated here (1) to determine whether the South African taxa are conspecific with the morphologically identical taxa from France and New Zealand (the respective type localities of P. dumerilii and P. australis), (2) to compare the South African species morphometrically to determine whether their morphological characters are reliable enough to separate them, and (3) to investigate whether these species have geographically structured populations along the coast of South Africa. Molecular data (COI and ITS1) confirm that P. dumerilii and P. australis do not occur in South Africa. Instead, the South African taxon formerly thought to be Platynereis dumerilii is new and is described here as Platynereis entshonae, sp. nov.; the identity of the other South African species is currently unresolved and is treated here as Platynereis sp. Surprisingly, Platynereis massiliensis (type locality: Marseilles) nested within the South African Platynereis sp. clade but, since it is part of a cryptic species complex in the Mediterranean, the name is considered doubtful. Morphological characters traditionally used to define these South African Platynereis species are not reliable as predefined morphological groupings do not match phylogenetic clades and principal component scores revealed no separation in morphological characters that could distinguish between them. Haplotype networks and phylogenetic trees revealed that P. entshonae, sp. nov. and Platynereis sp. have geographically structured populations along the South African coast.
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Vol. 34 • No. 6