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An order of Granuloreticulosia in the class Rhizopodea. Foraminiferans are dominantly marine protozoans, with a secreted or agglutinated shell, or test, enclosing the continually changing ameboid body (see illustration) that characterizes this and other orders of the superclass Sarcodina. Their unique combination of long geologic history, ubiquitous geographic distribution, and exceptional diversity of test composition, form, and structure make the foraminiferans the most useful of all marine fossils for stratigraphic correlation, geologic age dating of sediments, and paleoecologic interpretation. Their tests accumulated in great numbers and are recoverable from small quantities of sediment, rock outcroppings, well cores or cuttings, or ocean dredging and submarine coring.

Scanning electron micrographs of foraminiferans of suborder Rotaliinaenlarge picture
Scanning electron micrographs of foraminiferans of suborder Rotaliina

As is true of most protists with skeletons or tests, systematic differentiation and classification of foraminiferans is based on test composition, microstructure, and gross morphology. Information currently available concerning cytoplasmic characters, life cycles, and so on has shown good agreement with this classification, although the function and origin of many shell characters believed to be of systematic importance (canal systems, pores, septal doubling, and apertural tooth plates) are yet undetermined. There are 11 suborders.

Most foraminiferans are benthic, living upon the sea floor, within the upper few centimeters of ooze, or upon benthic algae or other organisms. They occur from the intertidal zone to oceanic depths, in brackish, normal marine, or hypersaline waters, and from the tropics to the poles. Some modern Lagynacea live in fresh water, but none are known as fossils. Assemblages vary widely in response to local conditions, with the greatest diversity occurring in warm, shallow water. A smaller number, the Globigerinina, are planktonic, living at various depths in the water column from the surface to the bottom, being most numerous between 18 and 90 ft (6 and 30 m). Vertical migration may be diurnal and may occur during ontogenetic development. The preferred depth range of a species may vary geographically in response to temperature differences or to changes in water density.

McGraw-Hill Concise Encyclopedia of Bioscience. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


(invertebrate zoology)
An order of dominantly marine protozoans in the subclass Granuloreticulosia having a secreted or agglutinated shell enclosing the ameboid body.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
References in periodicals archive ?
(1981): Variation range, evolution, and biostratigraphy of Palorbitolina lenticularis (Blumenbach) (Foraminiferida, Lituolacea) in the Lower Cretaceous of the Dinaric Mountains in Yugoslavia.
Figure 2a Order FORAMINIFERIDA Eichwald Suborder ROTALIINA Delage & Herouard Superfamily ROTALIACEA Ehrenberg Family ELPHIDIIDAE Galloway Subfamily ELPHIDIINAE Galloway Genus Elphidium de Montfort Elphidium gunteri Cole
0.99 13.33 Semillas de algas 2.52 35.56 Total 11.42 74.44 Protozoa Foraminiferida Globigerina sp.
(1980): A water depth model for the evolution of the planktonic Foraminiferida. Nature, 286: 252-254.