Overview

Brief Summary

Taxonomy

Cinctipora elegans is distinguished by its large zooids with long, funnel-like skeletal apertures, measuring about 1.5mm long by 0.5mm. Apertures are arranged in whorls, commonly 9-13 around the branch circumference.Each zooid has 16 tentacles but these can be difficult to observe as they are almost transparent and do not protrude fully from the aperture. Older parts of colonies are discoloured and fouled by sponges and other organisms.The skeleton of Cinctipora elegans is made of calcite, a calcium carbonate mineral, in the form of tiny crystals complexly interwoven. Sectioned branches show new zooids originating close to the centre.The phylogenetic placement of Cinctipora elegans is problematical although it possibly the most primitive living species of cyclostome bryozoans, an ancient order extending back into the Ordovician.
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Introduction

The shallow sea-bed around New Zealand is a haven for bryozoans, colonial animals informally known as moss-animals, sea-mats or lace corals and commonly mistaken for corals, sponges or seaweeds.Cinctipora elegans is one of the most important of the approximately 1000 bryozoan species that inhabit New Zealand waters because it commonly forms a habitat for a wide diversity of other animals, including crustaceans, worms and sponges.
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Comprehensive Description

Biology

Colonies reach up to 30cm high and can contain hundreds of branches and thousands of zooids, unusually large for a modern cyclostome bryozoan.Actively feeding zooids are typically confined to zones about 1cm back from the branch growing tips. Older zooids further away from the growing tips are dormant.Growth rates are unknown but it is quite likely that colonies live for a decade or more.

Reproduction
Sexual reproduction in this species is mysterious as, unlike other cyclostome bryozoans, specialized zooids for brooding the larvae have never been found. Nevertheless, the structure of the founding zooids of new colonies is identical to that of other cyclostomes, suggesting that they were formed by the settlement a free-swimming larva produced by sexual reproduction.Asexual propagation can occur through regrowth from branches broken from adult colonies.
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Ecology

General Ecology

Distribution ecology

Cinctipora elegans is known only from New Zealand, ranging over latitudes from 40° to 53°S. Most records come from the continental shelf southeast of the South Island but the species is also found around the Chatham Islands and in Cook Strait.It belongs to a family of cyclostomes that is endemic to New Zealand at the present-day but has been found recently as a fossil in Argentina. As a fossil Cinctipora elegans is first found in deposits of late Miocene age.The recorded depth range of Cinctipora elegans is from 14 to 914 metres. However, average depth of occurrence is 135 metres. On the Otago Shelf Cinctipora elegans forms thickets at depths between 80 and 95 metres. These act as habitats for juvenile fishes, such as blue cod (Parapercis colias).
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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Behaviour

Like other bryozoans, Cinctipora elegans is an active suspension feeder that captures phytoplankton using currents of water generated by hair-like cilia aligned along the tentacles.Nothing is known about its predators.
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Conservation

Conservation Status

Conservation

Mounds constructed by Cinctipora elegans in Foveaux Strait have been seriously damaged as a result of trawling for oysters. This is particularly unfortunate because those oysters living in the bryozoan mounds are less vulnerable to outbreaks of the parasitic protist Bonamia exitiosa.The main threat to the survival of Cinctipora elegans itself probably comes from ocean acidification that may make construction of its calcium carbonate skeleton difficult.
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Wikipedia

Cinctipora elegans

Cinctipora elegans is a bryozoan species in the genus Cinctipora found in shallow sea-bed around New Zealand. Fossils of the species are also known.

References

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