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Image of bryozoan (Petraliella spp.), courtesy of Smith, 1873, from Gulf of Mexico Origin, Waters, and Biota
Petraliella spp. [Image: Smith, 1873, Gulf of Mexico Origin, Waters, and Biota, Chapter 68, Page 1148]

Petraliella spp. is a member of Petraliellidae, a family of encrusting bryozoans most often found in the Indo-Pacific region.  Petraliela bisinuata is a species of Petraliellidae found in the Gulf of Mexico.

 Phylum: Bryozoa (Moss Animals)

Lacy crust bryozoan (Conopeum tenuissimum) [Photo: USGS, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species]

Bryozoans, or moss animals, are colonial invertebrates found in almost all marine and freshwater habitats.  Six thousand species of bryozoans have been described worldwide, with 266 documented species in the Gulf of Mexico.

Bryozoans take many forms, with some colonies appearing as hard crusts or mats attached to floating objects and other colonies attached to the sea floor.  There are also free-living colonies which move on the sea floor via bristle-like vibracula.  The size of bryozoan colonies can range from a couple of millimeters to several meters.

Bryozoans reproduce both sexually and asexually. New colonies can be formed asexually through fragmentation of parent colonies.  Sexual reproduction of new colonies occurs when hermaphroditic zooids produce eggs and sperm which unite to form planktonic larvae.  After the planktonic larvae find a suitable substrate on which to settle, a new bryozoan colony will form.

Bryozoans are suspension filter feeders, which makes them important for the health of the Gulf ecosystem.  One negative consequence of the presence of bryozoans is their capability of fouling piers, pilings, docks and ship hulls.

(Information from Gulf of Mexico Origin, Waters, and Biota: Volume 1, Biodiversity, Texas A&M University Press 2009).

Other Resources:

UC Berkeley, Museum of Paleontology, Bryozoans


Image of Bryozoan (Canda spp.), courtesy of Smith 1872, from Gulf of Mexico Origin, Waters and Biota, Chapter 68, Page 1147
Bryozoan (Canda spp.) [Image: Smith, 1872, from Gulf of Mexico Origin, Waters, and Biota, Chapter 68, Page 1147]

Canda is a genus in the family Scrupocellariidae.  This family forms erect, branching colonies, that are attached to the substratum by a pair of rootlets.

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