Field of Science

The Bolivinitids

The Cretaceous was a period of significant innovation in the evolution of Foraminifera with a number of distinct new lineages making their appearance during this period. Among those, appearing in the latter part of the Cretaceous, were the first members of the modern family Bolivinitidae.

Bolivinita costifera, from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

The Bolivinitidae are free-living benthic forams with a calcareous, hyaline (glassy) test. The overall shape of the test is elongate with chambers arranged in biserial coils (that is, there are two chambers per loop). The terminal aperture is usually loop-shaped with a surrounding lip. Inside the chamber, a tooth plate (an inner protrusion of the test) runs from the aperture to the opening of the previous chamber and may protrude through the aperture (Revets 1996).

Representatives of the Bolivinitidae are found in a wide range of depths, from the shallow waters of the ocean to the bathyal zone. They may be among the most abundant forams in areas of low oxygen concentrations and are commonly associated with sustained organic matter input (Erdem & Schönfeld 2017). In other words, these are muck-lovers. Individuals growing in low oxygen conditions tend to show less pronounced surface sculpture on the test than those where the oxygen levels are higher. Conversely, individuals at deeper levels tend to be larger overall than those in shallower waters (Brun et al. 1984). As such, bolivinitids have received their fair share of attention as potential indicators of changes in environmental condition over time.


Brun, L., M. A. Chierici & M. Meijer. 1984. Evolution and morphological variations of the principal species of Bolivinitidae in the Tertiary of the Gulf of Guinea. Géologie Méditerranéenne 11 (1): 13–57.

Erdem, Z., & J. Schönfeld. 2017. Pleistocene to Holocene benthic foraminiferal assemblages from the Peruvian continental margin. Palaeontologica Electronica 20.2.35A: 1–32.

Revets, S. A. 1996. The generic revision of the Bolivinitidae Cushman, 1927. Cushman Foundation for Foraminiferal Research Special Publication 34: 1–55.

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