Species Description: N. stipata forms colonies of widely spaced zooids connected by a slender stolon. Individuals are tall and tubular in shape, measuring approximately 2.1 X 0.17 mm. The chitinous exoskeleton often becomes covered with a layer of silt or mud, thus zooids resemble mud tubes constructed by amphipods or polychaete worms. The lophophore averages 0.62 mm in diameter and bears 17 tentacles.
Potentially Misidentified Species: Nolella stipata may easily be identified as a tube-dwelling polychaete worm, or the mud tube of an amphipod. However, upon close examination, the stolon is revealed and the lophophore can be observed.
Regional Occurrence: N. stipata is distributed throughout the western Atlantic from Canada south to the Caribbean and Brazil.
IRL Distribution: Winston (1982) has collected N. stipata year-round from 3 stations in the IRL: the seagrass beds around Link Port; the breakwater at Ft. Pierce; and at Walton Rocks. Further sampling effort could potentially increase the known range of this species in the IRL.
Age, Size, Lifespan: Individual zooids of N. stipata are tall and cylindrical in shape, measuring approximately 2.1 X 0.17 mm. The lophophore measures an average of 0.616 mm in diameter (Winston 1982).
Embryology:: N. stipata produces several yellow eggs per zooid. Embryos are brooded within the zooid and develop into short-lived, non-feeding larvae.
Temperature: Because it is present year-round, N. stipata is considered to be eurythermal.
Salinity: N. stipata is typically collected from waters where salinity remains above 30‰.
Trophic Mode: Nolella stipata, like all bryozoans, is a suspension feeder. Each individual zooid in a colony has ciliated tentacles that are extended to filter phytoplankton less than 0.05mm in size (about 1/1800 of an inch) from the water column. Bullivant (1967; 1968) showed that the average individual zooid in a colony can clear 8.8 ml of water per day.
Habitats: Typical habitat for ectoprocts in the Indian River Lagoon include seagrasses, drift algae, oyster reef, dock, pilings, breakwaters, and man-made debris (Winston 1995). Nolella stipata has been collected on seagrasses, shells, algae, and on other bryozoans such as Zoobotryon species (Winston 1982).
Benefit in IRL: Bryozoans are ecologically important in the Indian River Lagoon due to their feeding method. As suspension feeders, they act as living filters in the marine environment. Winston (1995) reported that colonies of Zoobotryon verticillatum located in 1 square meter of seagrass bed could potentially filter and recirculate an average of 48,000 gallons of seawater per day.
No information is available at this time