A foraminiferan adventure

Michael Hesemann (Germany) Fig. 1. Diagram of a foraminifera cell structure. Fig. 2. From Ernst Haeckel: Kunst-formen der Natur, 1899-1904, Plate 2. Fig. 3. Residue on a sample plate. Two years ago, I joined an evening course on microfossils. I started by learning the proper use of microscopes and observing 4 to 5cm (that is, rather big) fossil otholiths (that is, the ear stones of fish). Soon ostracods, nummulites, smaller foraminifera and diatoms were given to the class and I was amazed by the outstanding and unusual structures I saw. In addition, we also learnt that the Egyptian pyramids of Giza consist to 40% of nummulite tests and that 60% of the world rocks that are derived from marine environments contain the remains of foraminifera. As a result, I started to collect foraminifera and got in contact with hobby micropalaeontologists. In March 2008, I received a 100g letter containing tiny plastic-bags weighing between 10g to 15g. To me, it was an overwhelming miracle – hundreds of foraminifera from the Pleistocene rocks of Torrente Stirone in Northern Italy. My foraminiferan adventure had well and truly begun. What are Foraminifera? Foraminifera are single celled protozoans with an amoeboid internal structure consisting of a nucleus, vacuoles and cytoplasm. The main parts are usually protected by an internal shell called a “test”, which consists of one or more chambers. Fine strands of plasma branch and merge from the main opening and, sometimes, through pores to the outside to catch food. The name “foraminifera” refers … Read More

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