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9. Conclusions

Although bryozoa are reasonably common in archaeological sites, especially as epibiont organisms on marine shells, they are seldom identified to species or even family level. This is unfortunate, as different species can have quite specific preferences with regard to water salinity and tidal level, as well as distinct geographic distributions. The presence or absence of bryozoans, and their colony form, may provide evidence of past habitats and the locations from which marine shells have been sourced, as well as the condition of the shell (occupied or empty) at the time of collection. The size of zooids may reflect palaeotemperature, they may exhibit morphology that allows reconstruction of seasonality, and zooids may be sampled for stable isotope analysis for palaeoclimatic studies. Colonies found in life position have the potential to reveal high-resolution palaeoenvironmental information. Unlike ostracods, foraminifera or molluscs, all of which may be recovered from similar contexts, bryozoans are generally sessile. As with many biological proxies, more study of living colonies and their responses to environmental factors is needed to maximise the palaeoecological utility of bryozoan analysis (bryozooarchaeology?).

Although calcified bryozoa may be well preserved in similar depositional environments to molluscs, ostracods or foraminifera, the colonies are fragile, and may easily be damaged during sample processing or cleaning of shells and other artefacts. This is likely to be a contributory factor to the under-recording of bryozoa in archaeological samples. Statoblasts similarly may be damaged or degraded. As Hall et al. (2003, 142) have previously suggested, online sharing of photographs of different grades of preservation may overcome some identification difficulties.


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