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Keywords:

  • Bryozoa;
  • morphology;
  • palaeoenvironment;
  • phenotype;
  • variability

Fossil and Recent specimens of the Mediterranean bryozoan Myriapora truncata show considerable intra- and intercolonial differences in branch diameter and zooid size. Statistically significant variability occurs within colonies, between colonies within sites, and between sampled sites, while the presence of intracolonial variability clearly shows that branch diameter is largely controlled by environmental parameters. The three structural traits measured (branch diameter, zooid size and zooid depth) do not correlate, thus indicating a disconnection between the controls on overall zooid size and branch diameter. Possible environmental parameters that may have an influence on morphology are temperature, food supply or current energy. Whereas current energy has an effect on the colony branching pattern (branch spacing), there are indications that temperature may be the main, but not the only, parameter controlling zooid size, and it is suggested that food supply largely determines the branch diameter in M. truncata. However, the identification of the decisive factors and quantification of the relationships between environmental and morphological change is beyond the scope of this study. The results nevertheless show that, if the control factors of morphological variability can be ascertained in Recent M. truncata, this species may prove to be an indicator of environmental conditions and their change at different spatial and temporal scales in Cenozoic to Recent Mediterranean habitats.