Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp 253–265 | Cite as

Symbiont bleaching in fossil planktonic foraminifera

  • Bridget S. WadeEmail author
  • Nadia Al-Sabouni
  • Christoph Hemleben
  • Dick Kroon
Original Paper


Size restricted carbon isotopes (δ13C) are used to track changes in the ontogenetic life strategies of two species of extinct planktonic foraminifera and demonstrate that the species Morozovelloides crassatus lost their photosymbiotic association prior to their extinction in the latest middle Eocene. M. crassatus exhibit a strong positive correlation between test size and δ13C between 39.5 Ma and 38.7 Ma and a Δδ13C shift of 1.0‰/100 μm, this is analogous with modern species that possess an association with algal photosymbionts. Turborotalia cerroazulensis is interpreted as an asymbiotic, thermocline dweller and consistently shows no size related δ13C trends and greater δ18O values in comparison to Morozovelloides. We show a long-term (1.5 million year) deterioration of Morozovelloides ecology that culminated in their extinction at 38.021 Ma. The Δδ13C /100 μm in M. crassatus is dramatically reduced from 1.0‰ at 39.53 to only 0.2‰ at 38.026 Ma, 5 kyr before their extinction. The decline in ontogenetic δ13C suggests diminished photosymbiotic activity (bleaching) and disruption of foraminiferal ecology in the interval preceding their extinction. We conclude that the demise of Morozovelloides was directly related to the deterioration of photosymbiotic partnerships with algae.


Photosymbionts Planktonic foraminifera Eocene Site 1052 Carbon isotopes Extinction 



We thank Richard Norris and an anonymous reviewer for constructive comments that improved the clarity of the manuscript. We are grateful to Pamela Hallock Muller, Isabella Premoli-Silva, Richard Olsson and William Berggren for insightful comments on an earlier version of this manuscript, and Paul Pearson and Kate Darling for discussion. Giancarlo Bianchi and Colin Chilcott assisted with sample analysis. Samples were provided by the Ocean Drilling Program (ODP). The ODP is sponsored by the U.S. National Science Foundation and participating countries under management of Joint Oceanographic Institutions Inc. This research was supported by UK Natural Environment Research Council reference number NER/I/S/2000/00954 to BW and the University of Edinburgh.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bridget S. Wade
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Nadia Al-Sabouni
    • 1
    • 4
  • Christoph Hemleben
    • 4
  • Dick Kroon
    • 1
  1. 1.Grant Institute of Earth Sciences, School of GeoSciencesUniversity of EdinburghEdinburghUK
  2. 2.Department of Geological Sciences, Wright Geological Laboratory, RutgersThe State University of New JerseyPiscatawayUSA
  3. 3.Institute of Marine and Coastal Science, RutgersThe State University of New JerseyNew BrunswickUSA
  4. 4.Institute of GeosciencesUniversity of TuebingenTuebingenGermany

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