AB - Vol. 7, No. 1 - Feature article

Colonies of free-living bryozoans dig to the surface using setae (blue) when buried; this explains their long-term success on unstable sediments. False colour scanning electron micrograph: Aaron O’Dea & Felix Rodriguez

O’Dea A

 

Relation of form to life habit in free-living cupuladriid bryozoans

 

Relating the form of organisms to how they live is critical for uncovering patterns in evolution, as Steven Stanley demonstrated in 1970 with his seminal work on bivalves. O'Dea explores form and life habit in free-living bryozoans, an enigmatic group that has become highly successful in tropical seas since the Cretaceous due to its ability to deal with the perils of life on unstable sediments. Colony form provides steadiness on the sediment, and movable setae enable the colony to dig to the surface when buried. Disturbance caused by other animals appears to be the main driver behind the evolution of the free-living form, supporting the theory that bioturbation in the sea increased dramatically at the end of the Cretaceous.

 

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