Introduction and Definitions

The terms epiflora and epifauna (collectively 'epibiota') are usually used to describe nonparasitic organisms living on the surfaces of other organisms (see examples in Figure 1). Some epibiota have an intimate relationship with their host, but for many or perhaps even most species the host is just a surface to which they can attach, shelter from consumers, or gain better access to light or nutrients. These species typically show little host-specificity and may also occur on nonliving surfaces.

Numerous terms have been used to describe surface-dwelling organisms and their hosts (Box 1). Epiphyte, the most familiar of these, usually denotes a terrestrial plant living on another plant, but has also been used in the aquatic literature to describe plants on plants, and animals

Figure 1 Representative epibiota, using New Zealand examples. (a) Astelia banksii, a lily growing on the tree Metrosideros excelsa, (b) Pyrrosia eleagnifolia, a fern growing on a tree, (c) Lithophyllum carpophylli, a coralline red alga (top left), and various small foliose and filamentous red algae (lower right), growing on the brown seaweed Carpophyllum maschalocarpum, (d) Batedotea elongata, an isopod crustacean, on the brown seaweed Carpophyllum maschalocarpum, (e) Astropecten polyacanthus, an asteroid echinoderm (starfish), on a sandy seafloor. White bars represent 1 m (a) or 10 mm (b-e). Photos copyright Richard Taylor (a-d) and Pamela Brown (e).

Figure 1 Representative epibiota, using New Zealand examples. (a) Astelia banksii, a lily growing on the tree Metrosideros excelsa, (b) Pyrrosia eleagnifolia, a fern growing on a tree, (c) Lithophyllum carpophylli, a coralline red alga (top left), and various small foliose and filamentous red algae (lower right), growing on the brown seaweed Carpophyllum maschalocarpum, (d) Batedotea elongata, an isopod crustacean, on the brown seaweed Carpophyllum maschalocarpum, (e) Astropecten polyacanthus, an asteroid echinoderm (starfish), on a sandy seafloor. White bars represent 1 m (a) or 10 mm (b-e). Photos copyright Richard Taylor (a-d) and Pamela Brown (e).

Box 1 Definitions

Aufwuchs. Microscopic organisms forming a film on aquatic surfaces Epi-. Living on the surface of

Epibenthos. Organisms living on the surface of a sea-, lake- or riverbed

Epibiota. Organisms living on any surface

Epifauna. Animals living on an aquatic surface

Epiflora. Plants living nonparasitically on surfaces of other organisms

Epiphyte. Plant living nonparasitically on the surface of another organism

Epizoon. Organisms living on the external surface of an animal Hemiepiphyte. Epiphyte with roots reaching down to the ground Holoepiphyte. Epiphyte living its entire life cycle as an epiphyte Liana. Vine rooted in the ground

Periphyton. Microscopic organisms forming a film on aquatic surfaces

Phorophyte. Terrestrial plant hosting epiflora on plants. Here epiphyte and epiflora are used interchangeably to refer to plants living on other organisms. For aquatic epifauna the term has been broadened to include animals inhabiting nonliving surfaces (but not those forming large-scale habitat like coral reefs). Microorganisms (with the exception of periphyton) and terrestrial animals are not considered here.

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