Marine Science Faculty Publications

Cenozoic Evolution of Larger Benthic Foraminifers: Paleoceanographic Evidence for Changing Habitats

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



ICRS11, Lessons from the Past, Carbonate ramp, reef, internal waves, thermocline gradients, symbiosis


The ever-increasing treasure-trove of paleoceanographic data relating to evolving Cenozoic ocean structure, including geographic and bathymetric gradients, provides novel insights into long-term changes in environmental conditions influencing shelf, ramp and oceanic-platform habitats occupied by carbonateproducing ecosystems. Similarly, recent studies documenting the influence of internal waves on mid- and deepshelf habitats provides equally exciting insights into previously unrecognized environmental variability experienced by organisms living in those habitats. Paleocene-Eocene photic-dependent carbonates were dominated by calcitic coralline red algae and larger benthic foraminifers (LBF), with aragonitic corals and calcareous green algae more restricted temporally and spatially. Morphologies of LBF are strongly influenced by light availability and water motion, with larger, flatter and more fragile shapes characteristic of lower light, low wave-energy environments. Since substantial LBF habitat is at middle to outer shelf or ramp depths (i.e., ~30 to ~130 m), understanding the influence of internal waves on these habitats as oceanic thermal gradients developed through the Cenozoic can provide crucial insights into evolving environmental conditions where the most diverse and highly specialized LBF biotas occurred.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Proceedings of the 11th International Coral Reef Symposium, v. 1, p. 16-20