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Zapalski et al., 2022b

Bryozoan–cnidarian mutualism triggered a new strategy for greater resource exploitation as early as the Late Silurian

Zapalski, M. K., Vinn, O., Toom, U., Ernst, A., Wilson, M. A.
JournalScientific Reports
Pagesnumber: 15556
Typearticle in journal
Estonian author


Bryozoans were common benthic invertebrates in the Silurian seas. The large biodiversity among Silurian benthic organisms prompted diversified interactions, and as a result bryozoans hosted many other organisms as symbionts. Here we analyse the cystoporate bryozoan Fistulipora przhidolensis and unidentified trepostomes intergrown with auloporid tabulate corals and putative hydrozoans. The material comes from the uppermost Přídolí Series (Late Silurian) of the Sõrve Peninsula, Saaremaa, Estonia. Our analysis shows that the interaction was beneficial for both organisms—cnidarians benefited from feeding currents created by the host bryozoan, while the latter benefited from the protection from predators by cnidae, it can thus be classified as mutualism. Such associations are common in modern seas. The analysed organisms are typically encrusting when the symbiosis is absent, when intergrown they display erect, branching morphologies, raised over the substratum, thus exploiting a higher suspension-feeding tier. While similar associations were known from the Devonian, we demonstrate that this novel ecological strategy for greater resource exploitation started as early as the latest Silurian.

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