Bryozoan diversity in New Zealand and Australia
Living and fossil bryozoans are numerically and taxonomically abundant in Australia and New Zealand, comprising the dominant organisms in some marine-benthic and fossil assemblages. They were first formally described from Australia in 1816 and from New Zealand in 1843. Since then, an appreciation of the high diversity of the phylum in Australasian waters has emerged, with 932 Australian and 857 New Zealand described and known undescribed species listed for these countries’ respective Exclusive Economic Zones. Since the continental shelves of both countries, especially those of Western Australia and the New Zealand subantarctic islands have yet to be fully explored for bryozoans, these figures must be regarded as conservative. The deep-sea bryofauna of Australia is also not yet well known. Many genera and some families are endemic to the region. Because of the economic and ecological importance of bryozoans (as invasive marine foulers, sources of marine natural products, providers of ecological habitat, contributors to paleoenvironmental interpretation), they are a rewarding group to study.