In February, the Australian Museum, hosted the 8th AustraLarwood Bryozoology Symposium — an annual one-day scientific meeting of Australasian bryozoologists, and the first such meeting in Sydney. Bryozoans, better known as “lace corals”, are neither true corals nor made of lace, but are among the most important habitat forming animals in the sea. Like corals, bryozoans are tiny creatures that form large encrusting colonies attached to the sea-bed (and virtually any hard surface). They also grow profusely on wharf pilings, sea-walls and vessel hulls, making bryozoans not only very important as habitat for other species, but also troublesome for ports and shipping. Bryozoans occur worldwide and have an extensive fossil record going back about 480 million years, and so attract wide study.

Participants of the 8th AustraLarwood Bryozoology Symposium
Some of the participants of the 8th AustraLarwood Bryozoology Symposium. From left, Rolf Schmidt (Museum Victoria), Dorrit Jacob (Macquarie University), Laura Otter (Macquarie University), Phil Bock (Museum Victoria), Katerina Achilleos (University of Otago), Abby Smith (University of Otago), Carolann Schack (NIWA), Brenda Gordon, Dennis Gordon (NIWA), Catherine Reid (University of Canterbury). Image: Dennis Gordon
© Dennis Gordon

At the symposium, participants from Australia and New Zealand presented on topics ranging from palaeontology to biomineralization, resource extraction and bryodiversity. Notably, the day’s talks were bracketed by two members of the Bock family—our own David, with a potted history of the Australian Museum, and his taxonomist father, Phil, who presented on the extensive Australian bryo-fauna. The presentations were immediately followed by a tour of the Australian Museum’s Recent and fossil bryozoan collections. The next day, participants enjoyed a field trip to Gerroa, south of Sydney, to examine extensive shore outcrops of large Permian foliose, branching and massive trepostome bryozoans.

Dr Shane Ahyong, Principal Research Scientist and Manager, Marine Invertebrates