Cheilostomes, the dominant group among living bryozoans, appeared in the Late Jurassic and began to extensively diversify late in the Early Cretaceous. Knowledge of the early diversification phase comes mostly from fossils from Europe and the USA, but recently Early to Late Cretaceous cheilostomes have proven to be much more common in Japan than previously suspected. Modes of preservation in Japanese material include 1) the exposed colony surface, which is rare, 2) zooidal vertical walls embedded in matrix, and 3) colony molds, which are common. Here we illustrate and describe in detail a method adapted from dental technology to produce from colony molds fine-quality vinyl polysiloxane (VPS) silicone casts suitable for scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Improvements over previous methods include the use of paraffin dams, direct use of low-viscosity VPS medium for casts, and pressure curing. Our method will be useful for any preservational mode leaving molds or imprints organisms, including bioimmuration.
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