SGU Science Picture Of The Week: Forams
This is not a ukelele in UV light. What you’re seeing is a beautiful species of Foraminifera in polarized light.
Foraminifera (or just Forams) are single-celled protists that live in shells. Protists are eukaryotic in that they have cells like plants, animals, or fungi but they are none of those things. Their shells are called Tests and they form them by cementing (agglutinating) together the sediments around them.
Forams are mostly bottom dwellers, found in all marine environments from the poles to the tropics. They use cool and creepy pseudopodia (called reticulopodia) to find and eat food. Some use them to move around as well.
Three attributes of Foraminifera make them very valuable to science beyond a general biological interest.
- They are incredibly diverse, and this evolving diversity can be minutely traced back at least a half a billion years.
- They are also tiny, generally less than one millimeter.
- They are beyond practical enumeration. A cubic centimeter of sediment or rock can contain hundreds of living or fossil specimens
These characteristics come together to mean that they can be incredibly useful for learning about the environment in which they are found.
- The age of marine rock layers (BioStratigraphy)
- Details about past environments (PaleoEcology)
- Geographical distribution of life (PaleoBioGeography)
- They can even help us find oil deposits (PetroDiscoverOlogy)
I made that last word up