The genetic diversity of planktic foraminifera and the global distribution of ribosomal RNA genotypes

Kathryn Darling, Christopher M. Wade

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Fossil planktic foraminifers in the ocean sediments play an unparalleled role in our understanding of the oceanographic environment in the past. An in depth knowledge of their diversity, ecology and biogeography in the modern ocean lies central to the interpretation of the fossil assemblages. In comparison with their benthic counterparts, planktic foraminifera have a very limited diversity of around fifty extant morphospecies. Their morphospecies diversity peaks in the sub-tropics and decreases steeply towards the poles. Traditional species concepts have partitioned morphological types into distinct species (morphospecies) based on test shape, but genetic studies show that individual morphospecies are actually complexes of several discrete genetic types (genotypes). Many of these genotypes have distinct ecologies and novel adaptations that are consistent with species-level classification, indicating that the true diversity of planktic foraminifers has been greatly underestimated. Although planktic foraminifera are clearly capable of long-distance dispersal, they may be constrained by both physical and ecological barriers that vary according to the evolutionary history and ecology of the individual genotypes within a morphospecies. These differences lead to diverse biogeographies. Here, we provide an overview of the genetic and biogeographic data available to date for the planktic foraminifera and present global biogeographies highlighting the distribution of genetic types in the eight planktic foraminiferal morphospecies for which detailed molecular evidence is available.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)216-238
Number of pages23
JournalMarine Micropaleontology
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2008


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