AbstractAnnelid polychaetes have been seldom the focus of dedicated DNA barcoding studies, despite their ecological relevance and often dominance, particularly in soft-bottom estuarine and coastal marine ecosystems. Here we report the first assessment of the performance of DNA barcodes in the discrimination of shallow water polychaete species from the southern European Atlantic coast, focusing on specimens collected in estuaries and coastal ecosystems of Portugal. We analysed cytochrome oxidase I DNA barcodes (COI-5P) from 164 specimens, which were assigned to 51 morphospecies. To our dataset from Portugal, we added available published sequences selected from the same species, genus or family, to inspect for taxonomic congruence among studies and collection location. The final dataset comprised 290 specimens and 79 morphospecies, which generated 99 Barcode index numbers (BINs) within Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD). Among these, 22 BINs were singletons, 47 other BINs were concordant, confirming the initial identification based on morphological characters, and 30 were discordant, most of which consisted on multiple BINs found for the same morphospecies. Some of the most prominent cases in the latter category include Hediste diversicolor (O.F. Müller, 1776) (7), Eulalia viridis (Linnaeus, 1767) (2) and Owenia fusiformis (delle Chiaje, 1844) (5), all of them reported from Portugal and frequently used in ecological studies as environmental quality indicators. Our results for these species showed discordance between molecular lineages and morphospecies, or added additional relatively divergent lineages. The potential inaccuracies in environmental assessments, where underpinning polychaete species diversity is poorly resolved or clarified, demands additional and extensive investigation of the DNA barcode diversity in this group, in parallel with alpha taxonomy efforts.