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1. Introduction

Bryozoans (Phylum Bryozoa), also known as sea mats or moss animals and formerly as Polyzoa or Entoprocta, are colony-forming sessile invertebrates, comprising communities of separate individuals known as zooids. There are around 6000 living species known in the world (Benton and Harper 2009, 314). Most are marine, although brackish and freshwater species exist. Generally, they occur on hard substrates such as rocks, shells and the fronds of seaweeds, although there are forms that live on mud and sand. Many are calcified, and others have chitinous buds, and have the potential to be preserved in archaeological contexts, yet they are seldom investigated, perhaps due to considerable difficulties with identification. Considerably more work has been done on geological assemblages and more still on living colonies; however, in general the group is not well known (Francis 2001, 106). This article presents a condensed overview of the phylum, as well as a review of archaeological work to date. It also presents directions to maximise the interpretative potential of this under-exploited resource in palaeoecological research.


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