The Acervulinidae are a family of reef-inhabiting forams belonging among the rotaliids. Juvenile chambers of newly growing acervulinids are arranged in a flat spiral, but chambers of mature specimens may be arranged in one to several layers. The chambers do not have regular apertures, and instead their walls are only pierced by coarse pores (Perrin 1994). Genera and species of acervulinids are distinguished by the presence, arrangement and shapes of layers and chambers, but defining distinctions appropriately is challenging. Acervulinids do not have a determinate 'adult morphology'; instead, the final adult appearance can be affected by factors such as substrate relief and water movement. Properly identifying acervulinids therefore requires identification of features independent of these external factors.
Acervulinids can be abundant on tropical coral reefs, and may play a not insiginificant role in reef formation as binding organisms. They tend to be particularly prominent in deeper parts of the reef, as they can tolerate lower light levels than other organisms such as coralline algae; in shallower parts of the reef, they are found in more cryptic locations among the coral. Acervulinids may be free-living, or they may be directly attached to their substrate. Like the star-shaped calcarinids, their primary food source is benthic diatoms (that they may or may not live with symbiotically), and the abrupt disappearance of the modern Acervulina inhaerens below depths of 130 m probably corresponds to the lower limit of that food source (Bosellini & Papazzoni 2003).
Attached acervulinids may form either nodules or spreading crusts, depending on species and/or growth conditions (Perrin 1994). Such nodules or crusts may have diameters in the millimetre range, but some living species may be within the decimetre range. The most dramatic expression of acervulinid potential, however, was known from the Tethyan region during the Eocene period (the Tethys, for those unfamiliar with it, was the sea that connected the Atlantic and Indian Oceans north of Africa, before the northward movement of that continent closed off the Mediterranean at the eastern end). Here was found Solenomeris ogormani, initially interpreted as a red alga but since reidentified as an acervulinid. Solenomeris was primarily an encrusting form, but large growths would also produce tightly packed branches one or two centimetres in diameter. Over time, Solenomeris formed massive metre-sized domes, and these domes together would form entire reefs stretching over multiple kilometres: reefs formed not of coral, or of algae, but purely of forams!
Bosellini, F. R., & C. A. Papazzoni. 2003. Palaeoecological significance of coral−encrusting foraminiferan associations: a case−study from the Upper Eocene of northern Italy. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 48 (2): 279-292.
Perrin, C. 1994. Morphology of encrusting and free living acervulinid Foraminifera: Acervulina, Gypsina and Solenomeris. Palaeontology 37 (2): 425-458.