Paleobiological applications of three-dimensional biometry on larger benthic foraminifera: A new route of discoveries

Antonino Briguglio, Johann Hohenegger, György Less

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

27 Citations (Scopus)


Four specimens of larger benthic foraminifera (the Recent Palaeonummulites venosus and Operculina ammonoides, and the phylogenetically related Paleogene Nummulites fabianii and N. fichteli) were investigated by X-ray tomography. The resulting three-dimensional measurements enabled a comprehensive, quantitative study of shell morphology to interpret cell growth without specific shell preparation and/or destruction. After segmentation and extraction of all scanned lumina, the following characters were measured on all chambers of each specimen: chamber volume, septal distance, chamber height, and chamber width. The sequence of chamber lumina follows either a logistic function {Palaeonummulites, Operculina), where the deceleration in growth rate of the latest chambers could mark the onset of reproduction, or it can be modeled by a series of stepwise functions with differing constants {Nummulites). Variations around the growth model are either periodic, following external cycles, or random as expressed by abrupt deviations. Therefore, they may reflect the response of the cell to environmental changes in terms of cyclic changes (e.g., seasonality) or single events (e.g., predator attack). Correlations between chamber volume and the other chamber parameters show that septal distance always matches the sequence in chamber volume and can therefore be used as a proxy for environmental analyses in both growth models. Chamber height and width often remain constant around their function and rarely deviate drastically to accommodate the needed lumen for retaining test size and shape. Chamber width may vary according to chamber volume in involute specimens, whereas both chamber height and width correlate with volume in those tests following an Archimedean spiral. X-ray-tomography shows particular promise in determining which parameters that can be assessed routinely in two dimensions primarily reflect environmental conditions vs. parameters best used for taxonomie identification and for systematic lineage reconstruction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)72-87
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Foraminiferal Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2013


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Palaeontology

Cite this