Scanning electron micrograph of a branch of Cinctipora elegans. The funnel-like apertures of the zooids are about 1.5 mm long.
Cinctipora elegans is distinguished by its large zooids with long, funnel-like skeletal apertures, measuring about 1.5mm long by 0.5mm. Apertures are arranged in whorls, commonly 9-13 around the branch circumference.
Each zooid has 16 tentacles but these can be difficult to observe as they are almost transparent and do not protrude fully from the aperture. Older parts of colonies are discoloured and fouled by sponges and other organisms.
The skeleton of Cinctipora elegans is made of calcite, a calcium carbonate mineral, in the form of tiny crystals complexly interwoven. Sectioned branches show new zooids originating close to the centre.
The phylogenetic placement of Cinctipora elegans is problematical although it possibly the most primitive living species of cyclostome bryozoans, an ancient order extending back into the Ordovician.