Foraminifera and their Applications

As the author says, “The abundance and diversity of Foraminifera … make them uniquely useful in studies of modern marine environments and the ancient rock record”. And this book represents an interesting, enjoyable and informative ‘one-stop-shop’ treatment of precisely that subject.

Foraminifera are usually tiny organisms like Amoebae – but with shells. Most can only be seen under a microscope, by many readers will have collected the (relatively speaking) huge Nummulites sp. from the beaches at Bracklesham Bay or the Isle of Wight; and the lucky few will have seen them in the limestones out of which the great pyramids of Egypt were built.

In fact, Wynn Jones estimates that the number of extant species is at least 6,000 and the total number of both extant and fossil species may be more than 38,000. (Both of these figures include synonyms.) However, their importance to science and humans in general comes from the fact they provide useful tools for the study of the sciences of biology, ecology, oceanography, geology and palaeontology. And for the oil industry, they are absolutely essential.

This well-written and well-illustrated book covers a number of topics, including past, present and future Foraminifera research, and research methods. It also covers the biology, morphology and classification of Foraminifera, and their ecology. For the fossil enthusiast and geologist, it discusses their palaeontological interpretation, evolutionary history, biostratigraphy and sequence stratigraphy. And, most importantly, it sets out their applications. Not surprisingly, given the author’s background (see below), the section on petroleum geology is the most interesting and longest, but he also discussed their application to mineral geology, engineering, environmental science and (somewhat surprisingly to the uninitiated) archaeology.

Robert Wynn Jones has worked for 30 years as a Foraminiferal micropaleaontologist and biostratigrapher in the oil industry, during which he producing over 100 academic publications, including seven books. The current book is written for both the student and the amateur, and the illustrations of actual Foraminifera will be immensely useful for anybody who likes their fossils to be seen under a microscope. There are also online resources, including a full set of illustrations from the book and data tables with additional information on hundreds of foram families and species. These can be found at:

Foraminifera and their Applications by Robert Wynn Jones, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (2014). 391 pp., hardback, ISBN: 978-1-107-03640-6