A RBCM bryozoan specimen with a distinct branching colony structure.

Bryozoans of British Columbia

Project Leader

Heidi Gartner, MSc, Previous Invertebrates Collection Manager and Researcher

Project Partners
  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO)
  • Smithsonian Institution 
  • University of Victoria

Project overview

Bryozoans, or “moss animals”, are colonial animals, meaning there are many repeating and connected individuals. They are suspension feeders, plucking food particles from the surrounding water with a specialized structure called a lophophore. Bryozoans grow on solid substrates such as shells, rocks and algae and are common components of benthic (ocean floor) communities. They are prey items for many micropredators (such as worms, small crustaceans and small gastropods) and, as bio-constructors, they can increase the available habitat and diversity for an area.

Bryozoans are a relatively understudied phylum, particularly in BC. They have no direct economic value, and they are generally small, cryptic and hard to identify without the use of a microscope. The goal of this project is to document bryozoan biodiversity in BC. This process will involve examining the Royal BC Museum collection and published records, working with key collaborators and doing fieldwork along the coast of BC. The outcome will be a report on the species of bryozoans in BC, new species descriptions, updated distribution data for invasive species, resolution of phylogenetic relationships within the phylum and increased content for museum outreach programs.

Project activities

Currently, the project is focused on inventorying the museum bryozoan collection records and reviewing published literature related to bryozoans in BC. In the future, fieldwork will be conducted in remote marine areas along the central coast of BC. This is an underrepresented geographic area as well in the museum collection.

Forthcoming anticipated outputs include

  • A detailed publication on the diversity of bryozoans in BC
  • Additional anticipated publications on new species to science, new species in BC, changes to known habitats/ranges and phylogenetic relationships