Morphological Change During The Ontogeny Of The Planktic Foraminifera

Aude Caromel, Daniela Schmidt, Ian Fletcher, Emily Rayfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


Abstract: Development plays an important part in shaping adult morphology and morphological disparity, yet its influence on evolutionary processes is seldom explored because of a lack of preservation of ontogenetic stages in the fossil record. By preserving their entire ontogenetic history within their test, and with the advent of high-resolution imaging techniques, planktic foraminifera allow us to investigate the influence of developmental constraints on disparity. Using Synchrotron radiation X-ray tomographic microscopy (SRXTM), we reconstruct the ontogenetic progression of seven species across several of the major morphotypic groups of planktic foraminifera, including morphotypes of a species exhibiting high phenotypic plasticity and closely related pseudo-cryptic sister-taxa. We show differences in growth patterns between the globigerinid species, which appear more tightly regulated within the framework of isometry from the neanic stage, and the globorotaliid species, whose adult stages present allometric trends. Morphological change through ontogeny results in a change in surface area to volume ratios. Different metabolic processes therefore dominate at different stages of ontogeny, changing the vulnerability of the organism to environmental influences over growth, from factors affecting diffusion rates in the juvenile to those affecting energy supply in the adult. These findings identify some of the parameters within which evolutionary mechanisms have to act.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Micropalaeontology
Early online date20 Nov 2015
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 Nov 2015

Structured keywords

  • Cabot Institute


  • planktic foraminifera
  • surface area to volume ratio
  • growth patterns
  • Synchrotron radiation X-ray tomographic microscopy
  • ontogeny


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