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You are here: Home / Associated publications / Belgian Journal of Zoology / Bibliographic References / Biodiversity of foraminifera and other protists in the deep sea: Scales and patterns

AJ Gooday (1999)

Biodiversity of foraminifera and other protists in the deep sea: Scales and patterns


Ocean-floor sediments harbour a variety of protistan taxa, including ciliates, flagellates, naked amoebae, testate amoebae, foraminifera and xenophyophores. Only the foraminifera and xenophyohores, however, are reasonably well studied at the species level. Despite being an important component of deep-sea communities, these protists are frequently disregarded in biodiversity studies. This is unfortunate because ``live'' (rose Bengal stained) foraminifera are rich in species and morphologically very diverse. Individual samples from well-oxygenated bathyal and abyssal settings may contain up to 150 and sometimes more than 200 live species (>63-mu m fraction). The local diversity of foraminifera seems broadly comparable to that of nematodes among the meiofauna and polychaetes among the macrofauna. Particularly at abyssal sites, many species are undescribed and belong to poorly-known, soft-shelled tare. Extrapolating from local to global diversity (a popular activity in biodiversity research) is hampered by lack information about species distribution patterns, particularly for the soft-shelled taxa. However, many deep-sea foraminiferal species in ``normal'' well-oxy genated deep-sea settings appear to be widely distributed, implying relatively modest levels of global diversity. Trends in foraminiferal diversity in response to regional gradients of increasing organic enrichment and decreasing oxygen concentrations are fairly well described; species richness decreases, and dominance increases. Changes in foraminiferal diversity with increasing bathymetric depth down the continental slope have also been reported, but latitudinal diversity gradients remain largely undocumented among foraminifera in modern deep-sea settings. Because of their extensive fossil record, calcareous and other hard-shelled species can be used to address the influence of historical processes on large-scale diversity patterns. For example, the establishment of an Antarctic ice sheet 35 million years ago has been linked to the development of an ancient latitudinal diversity gradient among deep-sea foraminifera in the Southern Hemisphere. Xenophyophores are much less speciose than foraminifera. It has been estimated by TENDAL (1996) that only about one hundred species, described and undescribed, exist in modern oceans. Where the two groups coexist at a single locality, there may be an order of magnitude fewer xenophyophore species than foraminiferal species. The much lower number of xenophyophore species probably reflects their larger size and narrower ecological tolerance compared to foraminifera.

foraminifera; protist; diversity; xenophyophore; paleoceanography
5th Benelux Congress of Zoology, GHENT, BELGIUM, NOV 06-07, 1998
  • ISSN: 0777-6276

ISSN 2295-0451 (online version)
ISSN 0777-6279 (printed version)
impact factor 2015: 0,87.

Prof. Dr. Isa Schön
Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences
Vautierstraat 29
1000 Brussels, Belgium


Annales de la Société malacologique de Belgique
​Annales de la Société royale malacologique et zoologique de Belgique
Annales de la Société Royale Zoologique de Belgique
Belgian Journal of Zoology