Exploration of the theoretical morphospace of erect helical colony form in Bryozoa, created by McKinney and Raup (1982), reveals that only a small volume of the three-dimensional space of hypothetical form is occupied by actual colonies of the Paleozoic fenestrates (Class Stenolaemata) Archimedes and Helicopora, helical species of the cheilostome (Class Gymnolaemata) Bugula, and the cyclostome (Class Stenolaemata) Crisidmonea archimediformis. Actual helical-colony bryozoans are not found in regions of the morphospace characterized by colony geometries that possess the largest surface areas of filtration sheet. Examination of computer-simulated colonies in the theoretical morphospace reveals that, although possessing high surface areas, colonies in the empty region of high-surface-area morphospace possess other aspects of geometry that are unrealistic as filter-feeding geometries: the filtration-sheet whorls are held at small acute angles to the central colony axis and are deeply nested within one another, both of which are disadvantageous conditions for the system of filter feeding used by the extant cheilostome Bugula, and presumably by extinct helical-colony bryozoans as well.
Even though actual bryozoans are found only in the low to intermediate surface-area regions of the theoretical morphospace, surface area of filtration sheet is a major determinant of form in these helical colonies, as is evidenced by a negative correlation in values of the parameters BWANG and ELEV exhibited by the colony data. Minimum values of BWANG are even further constrained by the apparent need of the Archimedes colonies to maintain filtration-sheet branching densities within the range of 20 to 50.