Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Marine Science

Major Professor

Pamela Hallock Muller, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Robert Byrne, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Edward Van Vleet, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Norman Blake, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Lisa Robbins, Ph.D.


Calcification, Carbonate, Coral reef, Environmental change, Ultra structure


Historically, Archaias angulatus has been a major contributor to foraminiferal assemblages and sediments in coral-reef environments throughout the Caribbean and tropical Atlantic. A variety of anomalous features were observed in the tests of A. angulatus individuals collected live from the Florida reef tract in 2004 and 2005. Six types of anomalies were documented using scanning electron microscopy: microborings, microbial biofilm, pitted surfaces, dissolution, calcification abnormalities, and growth abnormalities. Calcification abnormalities included mineralogical projections, lacy crusts, and repair marks. These abnormalities were found among both juvenile and adult A. angulatus, and similar features were also found among Cyclorbiculina compressa and Laevipeneroplis proteus specimens collected live in the same samples.

In 2006, a comprehensive study was undertaken to see if the occurrence and types of morphological abnormalities have changed in A. angulatus from the Florida Keys over the past 2.5 decades. Archived samples of A. angulatus collected in 1982-83 from John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park were compared to recent samples. Seven different types of morphological abnormalities and 5 different surface texture anomalies were documented. Eighty-six combinations of abnormalities and surface textures were observed. Physical abnormalities included profoundly deformed, curled, asymmetrical, and uncoiled tests, irregular suture lines, surface "blips," and breakage and repair. Surface texture anomalies included surface pits, dissolution, microborings, microbial biofilm, and epibiont growth. Epibiont growth included bryzoans, cyanobacteria and foraminifers. The archived samples were not obviously more pristine than the recent samples indicating stress was well underway in the early 1980s.

Test strength was compromised in deformed specimens. Crushing strength of abnormal individuals was much more variable compared to individuals with irregular sutures and normal specimens. Deformed individuals also exhibited abnormal test wall structure including dissolution and infilling. Mg/Ca ratios for normal and deformed specimens were within normal parameters (12-15 µmol/mol).

Implications of these observations are at least twofold. First, in studies of fossil assemblages, damage to tests and changes in test-surface textures should not be assumed to have occurred postmortem, and may provide evidence of environmental stressors acting upon living populations. In addition, we speculate that test dissolution in larger miliolid foraminifers when alive can indicate declining carbonate saturation in seawater, which can result locally from salinity changes or increasing benthic respiration rates, as well as globally from rising concentration of atmospheric CO2.