Field of Science

Chilostomellidae: Deep Forams

Holotype of Chilostomella serrata, from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

The specimen in the figure above is a fairly typical representative of the Chilostomellidae, a cosmopolitan family of forams known from the Jurassic to the present day. Members of this family have a translucent calcareous test with chambers arranged in a trochospiral (broad conical) or planispiral (flat spiral) pattern. The chambers of each spiral are expanded to cover over the prior spirals so only the outermost spiral is generally visible. The aperture of the test in the final chamber is a narrow slit along the margin with the underlying chamber (Loeblich & Tappan 1964).

Despite their long history and wide distribution, I get the general impression that chilostomellids are not usually abundant. They are generally restricted to deeper waters, more than 100 m below the surface (Cushman et al. 1954). Members of the genus Chilostomella, at least, have commonly been regarded as associated with low-oxygen environments. However, it has also been suggested that their favoured conditions are not so much a question of low oxygen as high organic flux (Jorissen 2002). Perhaps the best location to find chilostomellids would be around sites where dead animals and seaweeds have fallen to the deeper waters below.


Cushman, J. A., R. Todd & R. J. Post. 1954. Recent Foraminifera of the Marshall Islands. Bikini and nearby atolls, part 2, oceanography (biologic). Geological Survey Professional Paper 260-H: 319–384, pls 82–93.

Jorissen, F. J. 2002. Benthic foraminiferal microhabitats below the sediment-water interface. In: Sen Gupta, B. K. (ed.) Modern Foraminifera pp. 161–179. Kluwer Academic Publishers: Dordrecht.

Loeblich, A. R., Jr & H. Tappan. 1964. Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology pt C. Protista 2. Sarcodina: chiefly "thecamoebians" and Foraminiferida vol. 2. The Geological Society of America, and The University of Kansas Press.

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