Bryozoans are an important part of the benthic marine fauna in a wide variety of modern environments and are found in rock forming abundance in a number of settings throughout much of the Phanerozoic. Bryozoologists and nonspecialists have grouped taxa into colonial growth forms (e.g., erect fenestrates or encrusting sheets), both to simplify analyses and because correlations exist between some colony growth forms and the environmental conditions in which the organism lived. These correlations allow for the possibility of paleoenvironmental analyses based on skeletons alone. Existing bryozoan colonial growth form classifications do not, however, fully exploit the ecological information present in colony form.
A new scheme is proposed here (Analytical Bryozoan Growth Habit Classification), which provides a list of colony-level morphological characteristics for bryozoan growth habits. This differs from previous approaches to bryozoan growth form analysis in that it is a classification of growth habit characteristics rather than a classification of morphological groups as such. The classification is based on eleven character classes, which describe the orientation of the colony and its occupation of, and placement in space. The overall colony shape is described based on the arrangement of modules in colonial growth. This classification provides a common ground for systematic comparison of character states among varied bryozoan growth habits. This approach allows for the evaluation of correlations among observed morphological character states and specific environmental conditions in which they develop. In addition, these growth habit characters can be used to recognize, characterize, evaluate, and apply more traditional growth form groups in broader studies.