Abstract

Marine bryozoans have been members of benthic skeletal faunas since the Ordovician. These small suspension feeders collect particles in the range of 10 to 100 μm. Specific details of their feeding depend on the morphology of the feeding apparatus, which may be reflected in skeletal characters. While several studies have described the link between the skeletal and soft-body traits of gymnolaemate bryozoans, stenolaemates have received less attention. To fill this gap, we conducted a detailed analysis of morphometry within and across species and attempted to develop robust predictive models that can be used to infer the soft-body morphology from skeletal data. This, in turn, will help with extracting data on ecology of Paleozoic communities of suspension feeders from the extensive bryozoan fossil record. Characters of polypide morphology among New Zealand cyclostomates (single Recent order in Stenolaemata) displayed staggering variability and almost without exception were not connected to skeletal characters at the species level. When this variability is reduced to its central tendency, interspecific trends are more apparent. The relationship is positive, linear, and moderately strong, but the resulting models have wide predictive intervals (plus/minus hundreds of micrometers). A precise estimate of the characters of the feeding apparatus of modern, and especially fossil, stenolaemates may be difficult to attain, at least on the basis of the skeletal traits used here.

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