Posted by: Rob Viens | August 28, 2012

Patiently Waiting with Cellepora

A brief follow-up to the events of yesterday.  It sounds like the Beagle was still unable to do survey work due to bad weather:

“During the night the weather moderated & this morning we stood in again for the shore.— By the time we got within a few miles of the land it was almost calm, but the swell from the ocean was extraordinarily great.— This is what might be expected from the gradual shoaling of the water.— The surf on the beach was proportionally violent: for ¼ of a mile the sea was white with foam & a cloud of spray traced for many miles the line of coast. As it was impossible to take observations, we are this evening again standing out to sea, patiently to wait till the elements are quiet.” (Aug 28)

In his Zoological Notebook yesterday, Darwin describes what he calls ” Cellepora”, which turns out to be not a coral but a type of Bryozoa. (I am starting to think Darwin called all corals and bryozoans “coral”).  This one was identified as Cellepora eatonensis Busk (1881), though a recent search suggests the name was changed to Osthimosia eatonensis Busk (1881). All I can really find during a quick search is that it is a small species that lives in Antarctic waters. Darwin’s description does it better justice:

“Lat 38°..20′ Sounding 14 fathoms.— Coral, stony; brittle; branched; orange coloured, white at tips of branches white; stems composed of numerous irregular circular small tubes, the former cells of polype.— Surface rough with little transparent cones, obliquely truncate, open.— I never saw polype protrude from these.— but from regular minute circular apertures with no external rim.— Polype very numerous.— Tentacula 12 round the mouth seated on a tube; This is contained in a case: tubular with rather wider at mouth protrudable.— Vide Pl 4: Fig: 3.— (a) Tentacula on tube, (b) the case: drawn as fully protruded from coral (c).” (Zoological Notebook)

Figure from Darwin’s notebook referenced above:

Cellepora sketch

Bryozoans have a lifestyle that is similar to corals but they are an entirely different phylum of living things.  I realized that I have not delved into these critters in any detail yet, but details will have to wait till another day.  To whet your appetite, here is an old plate showing Bryozoan colonies from the 1904 book Kunstformen der Natur by Ernst Haeckel…




  1. Great photo of these characters…

  2. […] his interest in marine life d’Orbigny was very interested in bryozoans (see Patiently Waiting with Cellepora), ultimately creating a legacy in this particular field of study.  He published several papers and […]

  3. […] phalangeaA northern species of lacy bryozoan – Phidolorpora labiata (from See Patiently Waiting with Cellepora for more on […]

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