Ontogenetic disparity in early planktic foraminifers

Kendall, Sophie; Gradstein, Felix; Jones, Christopher; Lord, Oliver T.; Schmidt, Daniela N.

Changes in morphology during ontogeny can have profound impacts on the physiology and biology of a species. Studies of ontogenetic disparity through time are rare because of the lack of preservation of developmental stages in the fossil record. As they grow by incremental chamber accretion and retain evidence of growth in their shell, planktic foraminifera are an ideal group for the study ontogenetic disparity through the evolution of a higher taxon. Here, we quantify different developmental stages in Jurassic foraminifers and infer the evolutionary implications of the shape of these earliest representatives of the group. Using a Zeiss Xradia micro-CT scanner, the development of Globuligerina bathoniana and Globuligerina oxfordiana from the Bathonian sediments of Gnaszyn, Poland, and Globuligerina balakhmatovae and Globuligerina tojeiraensis from the Kimmeridgian Tojeira Formation of Portugal was reconstructed. Disparity is low through the early evolution of planktic foraminifers. The number of chambers and range in surface area per unit volume are lower than in modern specimens. We interpret this morphology as an indication of opportunistic behaviour. The low morphological plasticity during the juvenile stage suggests that strong constraints on the juveniles, described in the modern ocean, were already acting on Jurassic specimens. The high surface area per unit volume in these developmental stages points towards the need to satisfy a higher metabolic demand than in the adult specimens. We are interpreting the lower chamber numbers as indicative of short life cycles and potentially rapid reproduction, both of which may have allowed these species to exploit the nutrient-rich waters of the Jurassic Tethys Ocean.

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Kendall, Sophie / Gradstein, Felix / Jones, Christopher / et al: Ontogenetic disparity in early planktic foraminifers. 2020. Copernicus Publications.

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