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A brief summer break for the microscopic Foraminifera

A big thank-you to everyone who has helped us transcribe the first two batches of 2,071 foram slides. We are currently preparing the third and final batch, which will go live on Notes from Nature in September. Please share any suggestions with us on how we can improve the workflow and tutorials!

In the meantime, we thought you might like this piece on the Natural History Museum website about how much we can learn from these microscopic fossils:

Oceans under the microscope: mapping the future with fossils

http://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/oceans-under-the-microscope.html

Coral fossils dating back to the Palaeozoic Era (about 541 to 252 million years ago). Different types of corals have thrived at different times in the past. Ancestors of living corals first appear in the fossil record about 245 million years ago, after a mass extinction at the end of the Permian Period (252 million years ago) wiped out all Palaeozoic corals.

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It’s clearly #FossilFriday at NfN, as the Trilobites are joined by Foraminifera!

A big thanks to everyone who helped us to classify our first test batch of  slides featuring rock slices with microscopic fossils in  Miniature Fossils Magnified. 

We are thrilled to be joining the Trilobites over in the Fossil section by bringing you a second batch of  Foraminifera in the Magnified section of Notes from Nature.

A few words from our Senior Curator of Micropalaeontology, Giles Miller, about the Larger Benthic Forams in this collection:

One of my curatorial predecessors Randolf Kirkpatrick (1863-1950) thought that larger benthic foraminifera (LBFs) were so important that he published a theory that they were vital to the formation of all rocks on earth. Our collection of LBFs has received relatively little attention over the 20 years I have been at the Museum, but recently it has been the most viewed part of the microfossil collection.

Some images of larger benthic foraminifera (LBF) taken by Antonino Briguglio, a recent SYNTHESYS-funded visitor to our collections. The images represent specimens roughly the size of a small fingerprint.

Traditionally LBFs have been difficult to study but new techniques, particularly CT scanning, are changing this perception. This post “The importance of being the largest microfossils” tells the story of Kirkpatrick and explains how the collection is currently being used for studies in stratigraphy, oil exploration, past climates and biodiversity hot spots.

Larger benthic foraminifera (LBF)

Larger benthic foraminifera are classified as microfossils because they were produced by a single celled organism, but they can reach a size of several centimetres. Their study is difficult because it usually relies on destructive techniques such as thin sectioning to make precise identifications.

My first line manager at the Museum Richard Hodgkinson was an expert at producing these thin sections. He described the technique of cutting the specimens exactly through the centre as an art rather than science.

Sadly there are very few people in the world skilled enough to make these sections, but thankfully the Museum collection is packed with LBF thin sections available for study.

Thank-you for helping to make this possible, by making all of the data in this collection available to research, along with the images of the specimens themselves.

Get Started Here

 

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