Rings of Saturn

Dr. Shyam Gupta, a Principal Scientist from National Institute of Oceanography in Goa, India found an interesting discovery today of a rare radiolarian species Saturnalis circularis.   

The name of the radiolarian comes from its similarity to the planet Saturn as the radiolarian and the planet both have rings around it.  This specimen also has distinct rings around its body and in the oblique planar view it appears as if you are looking at the planet Saturn.


For the micropaleontologists on the JR team this was a doubly exciting discovery.  It was also unique in that the specimen was entire as often they are seen in parts, as their tiny frustules or tests can be easily broken.  Fossil recovery has its limitations as many organisms are preserved in only the best of circumstances.

This siliceous radiolarian is a one-celled organism that drifts with other plankton in the ocean currents.  They rely on the turbulence of upper sea layers to keep them suspended in the water column.   As primary consumers in the food chain these zooplankton feed on diatoms and other phytoplankton.

Most are non-motile as their dense cell walls makes them sink.  Perhaps the rings around this one are used for better mobility or maybe the rings protect the radiolarian from other consumers.  We don’t know for sure.

Radiolarians skeletal remains cover a large portion of the ocean floor and form radiolarian ooze.  Their remains are one of the keys to aging ocean sediments.  

The sediment that this sample came from was taken from the core catcher at the bottom of the core barrel.  A smear slide was then made to investigate the composition and texture of the sediments in core samples.

The photos show the size of the specimen at 100 micrometer.  Micropaleontologists use high-powered light microscopes to study and classify these tiny fossils.  Magnification of 200 was used to see these. 


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