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Actvity Summary: Foraminifera are single-celled protists. They are not plants or animals, yet at times they seem to take on characteristics of both. Whether a form is 0.05 mm, 5.0 mm, or 18 cm, it only has one cell. Download the pdf for a series of activities about microfossils.


Foraminifera allow scientists to look at the past and compare it to today’s world to see how the Earth has changed over time.

Scientists gain a better understanding of the Earth by looking at the distribution of foraminifera. Liv- ing forams are like mirrors on present-day condi- tions, while fossil foraminifers provide clues to past environments and how the surface of the Earth has changed over time. There are over 4000 extant (living) foram species today, and more than 60,000 extinct foraminifer species. Foraminifera are signi cant because they are some of the most abundant marine organisms on Earth. By collecting data on factors that control how living forams are distributed in the sea, scientists note whether these factors, such as water temperature, depth, habi- tat, salinity, food availability, and latitude affect, or control which species thrive in certain areas and why.