Thursday, January 29, 2009

Life Photo Meme: Lacy

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Ectoprocta (Bryozoa)

Class: Gymnolaemata

Order: Cheilostomata

Family: Reteporidae

When I saw that this week's theme was lacy, I immediately thought of a lacy bryozoan (Phidolopora sp.). And you have to admit it does look pretty lacy. But most people would be hard pressed to identify what it actually is. Bryozoans are colonial animals like corals; but unlike most corals they have to capture their food rather than relaying on photosynthetic symbionts to make it for them.

They are not related to corals, as they lack the stinging cells that all coral posses. They are not closely related to anything existent, but are thought to be distantly related to brachiopods (those clam-like creatures that you can often by fossils of) and phoronids (looks like a worm with tentacles). Now that I write this, I realize those two groups are not horribly well-known either.

If you look closely at a bryozoan colony, you see little boxes. Inside each box (or zooid) is the living animal which is basically a set of tentacles (called a lophophore) connected to a stomach, and a muscle for extending the tentacles. They feed by using little hairs (cilia) on the tentacles to filter water for food particles. Below you can see a close up of the zooids with lophophores out and feeding...

There are only ~5,000 species of bryozoans world-wide, and are found in many different habitats in the ocean , from docks to deep ocean. The lacy bryozoan is found on the pacific coast and generally tends to be subtidal. It has been hypothesized that the holes that make it look like lace, help direct the water flow over each zooid.


gsolano said...

very nice picture!I am a biology student in Costa Rica and I am working on a paper well most like a catalogue of photos about different phyla for my Invertebrates class and I was wondering if you can tell me where you took this picture(the first one)to put it on the work also mith yout name. Thank you very much

Brine Queen said...

This animal was collected in Long Beach, CA, USA. You can credit it to E. Kosman. I hope you do well on your paper...