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Freshwater and Marine Ectoprocts or Bryozoans: Ectoprocta

Behavior And Reproduction

The life cycle of ectoprocts includes sexual (SEK-shu-uhl) and asexual (ay-SEK-shu-uhl) reproduction. Sexual reproduction involves males and females producing sperm and eggs. In some groups of ectoprocts, each zooid is a hermaphrodite (her-MAE-fro-dait). Some hermaphrodites have the reproductive organs of both males and females at the same time, while others produce eggs or sperm at different times of their life. Some ectoproct colonies have zooids that do nothing else but produce eggs and sperm. Sperm is released into the water to fertilize eggs that are attached in some way to parts of the colony. In some groups the fertilized eggs develop in special sacs or inside the body cavities of feeding zooids. The newly hatched larvae (LAR-vee) are independent at first. They swim for several hours before they settle and attach to a solid object.


The colonies of many ectoproct species are plantlike in appearance. They were once given the name of moss animals and placed in the phylum Bryozoa. The name Bryozoa comes from the Greek words bryon, meaning moss, and zoön, or animal. Like many mosses, ectoprocts grow in mats or clumps.

Asexual reproduction does not require males or females. Instead, ectoprocts reproduce by budding or breaking off parts of the colony. Each broken piece is capable of developing into a new colony. In some species, these pieces are equipped with special flotation devices that help them to float away and settle in new habitats. Some ectoprocts can only form new colonies by budding.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceMollusks, Crustaceans, and Related SpeciesFreshwater and Marine Ectoprocts or Bryozoans: Ectoprocta - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Sea Mat (electra Pilosa): Species Account - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, ECTOPROCTS AND PEOPLE, CONSERVATION STATUS