Creatures from the River: Bryozoa

Yesterday, while out conducting routine water monitoring, our Water Quality Specialist Masaya Maeda found this blob in the water near Bladensburg Waterfront Park. Not as pretty as some of his other photos but it's still part of our river's ecosystem, and a nifty specimen at that.

It's a colony of Bryozoa, which is a group of organisms that has been around for approximately 5 million years! Most of these critters live in marine waters, but there is one class from the Bryozoan phylum that lives in freshwater: Phylactolaemata. The colonies form on submerged logs, branches, etc. and can be 2 to 7 feet in diameter.

The colony Masaya found is probably Pectinatella magnifica, common name magnificent bryozoan. They are native east of the Mississippi River and thrive in warm water (temperatures above 60F) which is why they are more visible during the summer months. As filter feeders, they feed on detritus (dead plant and animal matter) so their presence here probably suggests the water needs cleaning, though Masaya reports that it has been a few years since he last saw them. Their tolerance for pollution is uncertain as studies have shown conflicting results, but if they are living in the Anacostia it would seem that they have some level of tolerance for pollution.

Magnificent bryozoans are becoming a big problem in the western US, where they are not native. From US Fish and Wildlife, "They are worried because increases in filter feeding activity makes water clearer, permitting solar light to reach greater depths. This can allow more aquatic plants to grow and shift the natural balance of that habitat. Scientists think that if water temperatures rise due to climate change, Magnificent bryozoa may find more suitable habitat here. And once they are here in large numbers they can disperse rapidly." P. magnifica has also been found in Canada, Europe, and Asia; this species seems to have adapted to many different habitats.

Next time you are near the Anacostia River (or any slow-moving freshwater source), see if you can spot one of these unique colonies! We would love to know their range in the watershed and see more photos!

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Spotted in Hiawassee, GA

We found two in Lake Chatuge tonight.  We are here every summer and this is the first time spotting it.

Bryozoa sighting

We have them in Lake Damariscotta, Maine. They like to attach themselves to our aluminum dock legs. 

bryazoans

I was away for a week from my home on the Bush River, MD and found my crab pot had 7 large balls of  what looked like fish eggs. I understand that these formations may be brazoans. I have never seen anything like them before.

Bryozoans in Missouri

We saw these yesterday at Smithville Lake in Smithville, MO.  There were a bunch washed up on the shoreline..

Freshwater Bryozoan Colony

We've seen a colony at this same location before, but yesterday, when we found a second, we decided to document it.  These bryozoan colonies we found were in a reservoir in Spalding County, Georgia.  I hope this helps with your insight into their range.  I have taken a couple photos, but I don't know how to attach them in this comment. 

 

 

bryozoa sighting

Wow - wondered what that little critter was. Some other rowers and I saw one of these at the floating dock in the waterfront park about 3 weeks ago. We did not know what to make of it, but let it be. If we see one again, we will thank it for helping clean the river!

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