UK Fossils Network Logo FOSSILS and Fossil Collecting in the UK - Location and fossil guidesUKGE Logo
UK Fossils Home Fossil Collecting Locations Fossil Guides Fossil Resources Fossil Discussions Geological Links Earth Science News Fossil Events Earth Science Magazine Geological Shop

An Introduction to Foraminifera
Joe Shimmin

Foraminifera (forams) are single celled organisms belonging to the Protista kingdom. Their fossils have been found in rocks from the Cambrian period onwards and they are still living and abundant today. Forams generally inhabit marine and brackish environments and although some do live freely in the upper ocean amongst the plankton, the majority of species are benthic i.e. they live in amongst the particles of the top few centimetres of the sea floor.

These organisms are very simple and consist of cytoplasm surrounded by a shell or ‘test’. The cytoplasm is also developed into hair-like structures, which radiate out from the aperture of the shell and often from gaps within it. The shell can be made up of minute crystals of calcium carbonate or can be composed of tiny particles of sediment or organic matter ‘glued’ together. A few species have shells composed of silica.

Due to these hard shells foraminifera are readily fossilised. Their profusion and their small size (generally below 1mm) can lead to thousands of individuals accumulating in a single cubic centimetre of sediment.

Foraminifera come in many different shapes from simple single chamber species to elaborate and beautiful forms with their chambers arranged in various different patterns and combinations.


Pic 3 - Various foraminifera species, showing differing chamber arrangements. From the Gault Clay.


Pic 4 – Nummulites - a very large variety of foram. The largest example in this picture has been polished to reveal the chambers of the test. From the Eocene.

 


Pic 1 – Spiriform foraminifera, from the Gault Clay.


Pic 2 – Various foraminifera species, showing differing chamber arrangements. From the Gault Clay.



(C)opyright 2008 - UKGE Limited, UK Fossils Network and Deposits Magazine, all rights reserved.
While we (UKGE/UK Fossils) try to ensure that the content of this location guide is accurate and up to date, we cannot and do not guarantee this. Nor can we be held liable for any loss or injury caused by or to a person visiting this site. Remember: this is only a location guide and the responsibility remains with the person or persons making the visit for their own personal safety and the safety of their possessions. That is, any visit to this location is of a personal nature and has not been arranged or directly suggested by UK Fossils. In addition, we recommend visitors get their own personal insurance cover. Please also remember to check tide times and rights of way (where relevant), and to behave in a responsible and safe manner at all times (for example, by keeping away from cliff faces and mud).

Fossil Discussions | News | Stone Tumblers | Magazine | Search Geo | UKGE | Geological Timeline | A to Z | Contact us