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Ectoprocta (Nitsche, 1869[4])

The Bryozoa, also known as Ectoprocta or commonly as moss animals, are a phylum of aquatic invertebrate animals. Typically about 0.5 millimetres (0.020 in) long, they are filter feeders that sieve food particles out of the water using a retractable lophophore, a "crown" of tentacles lined with cilia. Most marine species live in tropical waters, but a few occur in oceanic trenches, and others are found in polar waters. One class lives only in a variety of freshwater environments, and a few members of a mostly marine class prefer brackish water. Over 4,000 living species are known. One genus is solitary and the rest colonial.

The phylum was originally called "Polyzoa", but this term was superseded by "Bryozoa" in 1831. Another group of animals discovered subsequently, whose filtering mechanism looked similar, was also included in "Bryozoa" until 1869, when the two groups were noted to be very different internally. The more recently discovered group were given the name Entoprocta, while the original "Bryozoa" were called "Ectoprocta". However, "Bryozoa" has remained the more widely used term for the latter group.

Individuals in bryozoan (ectoproct) colonies are called zooids, since they are not fully-independent animals. All colonies contain autozooids, which are responsible for feeding and excretion. Colonies of some classes have various types of non-feeding specialist zooids, some of which are hatcheries for fertilized eggs, and some classes also have special zooids for defense of the colony. The class Cheilostomata have the largest number of species, possibly because they have the widest range of specialist zooids. A few species can creep very slowly by using spiny defensive zooids as legs. Autozooids supply nutrients to non-feeding zooids by channels that vary between classes. All zooids, including those of the solitary species, consist of a cystid that provides the body wall and produces the exoskeleton and a polypide that contains the internal organs and the lophophore or other specialist extensions. Zooids have no special excretory organs, and the polypides of autozooids are scrapped when the polypides become overloaded by waste products; usually the body wall then grows a replacement polypide. In autozooids the gut is U-shaped, with the mouth inside the "crown" of tentacles and the anus outside it. Colonies take a variety of forms, including fans, bushes and sheets. The Cheilostomata produce mineralized exoskeletons and form single-layered sheets that encrust over surfaces.

Zooids of all the freshwater species are simultaneous hermaphrodites. Although those of many marine species function first as males and then as females, their colonies always contain a combination of zooids that are in their male and female stages. All species emit sperm into the water. some also release ova into the water, while others capture sperm via their tentacles to fertilize their ova internally. In species the larvae have large yolks, go to feed, and quickly settle on a surface.[clarification needed] Others produce larvae that have little yolk but swim and feed for a few days before settling. After settling, all larvae undergo a radical metamorphosis that destroys and rebuilds almost all the internal tissues. Freshwater species also produce statoblasts that lie dormant until conditions are favorable, which enables a colony's lineage to survive even if severe conditions kill the mother colony.

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