Polytraits is a database on biological traits of polychaetes (bristle worms, Polychaeta: Annelida). It covers information about morphological, behavioural, reproductive and larval characteristics of polychaete taxa which has been collected from the literature. The project was initially started as an in-house project of the Institute of Marine Biology, Biotechnology and Aquaculture of the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research. Traits were initially collected for an ecological analysis of polychaetes in Mediterranean lagoons, but since then the database has been continuously expanded to provide data for other analyses as well.

Currently, polytraits is being maintained by the Institute for Marine Biology, Biotechnology and Aquaculture of the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research and will be supported by (and function as a part of) the Greek LIFEWATCH infrastructure .

The database and its contents have been described in detail in:

Faulwetter S, Markantonatou V, Pavloudi C, Papageorgiou N, Keklikoglou K, Chatzinikolaou E, Pafilis E, Chatzigeorgiou G, Vasileiadou K, Dailianis T, Fanini L, Koulouri P, Arvanitidis C (2014) Polytraits: A database on biological traits of marine polychaetes. Biodiversity Data Journal 2: e1024. doi:10.3897/BDJ.2.e1024


The database contains 47 different traits describing the morphological, behavioural, reproductive and larval features as well as the environmental affinities of a taxon. Each trait has several sub-categories, so-called "modalities" (e.g. the trait "Mobility of the adult" contains the modalities "crawler", "burrower", "swimmer" and "non-motile/semi-motile"). In total, 252 modalities are covered. The expression of a trait in a taxon is coded in the database by declaring each modality as "present" or "absent". This allows to capture both ambiguous information in the literature concerning the expression of a trait in a taxon, as well as the presence of multiple modalities in a taxon (e.g. some taxa can both be crawlers and swimmers).

Each assignment of a modality (and its presence/absence value) to a taxon is connected to a literature reference. This assignment is mandatory, no data can be entered without specifying the source of the data; however, to capture undocumented knowledge, the option "Expert's opinion" can be specified. The database contains its own literature management functions and stores references, the user can, during data entry, simply choose the desired reference from a list (or add it, if it is not yet present). It is possible to enter more than one reference per taxon-modality-value entry, thus corroborating the assignment. Additionally, most records are accompanied by the quotation of the exact literature passage which has led to the coding of the information. This serves two purposes: a) other researchers can re-use the data and code them differently if the modalities present in the database are not suitable for a specific analysis, and b) since the interpretation of text and the coding of the data is often subjective the original text can serve as a quality control mechanism. However, since this feature has only been introduced recently, some legacy data exist in the database which cite the reference but do not quote the exact source data; these gaps are gradually being filled in.

Data usage

The data in the database are published under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License and can be freely used if cited. Several methods for accessing the data are provided.

Citation options:



Number of species-level taxa with trait information 952
Number of genus-level taxa with trait information 222
Number of family-level taxa with trait information 82
Number of taxon-modality-value records 21504
Number of taxon-modality-value-publication records 27198