Sunday, November 11, 2007

Calcareous microfossils
Phosphatic microfossils include Conodonts (tiny oral structures of an extinct chordate group), some scolecodonts ("worm" jaws), Shark spines and teeth, and other Fish remains (collectively called "ichthyoliths").

Phosphatic microfossils
Siliceous microfossils include Diatoms, Radiolaria, Silicoflagellates, phytoliths, some scolecodonts ("worm" jaws), and spicules.

Micropaleontology Siliceous microfossils
The study of organic microfossils is called palynology. Organic microfossils include pollen, spores, Chitinozoans (thought to be the egg cases of marine invertebrates), Scolecodonts ("worm" jaws), Acritarchs, Dinoflagellate cysts, and fungal remains.

Microfossils are especially noteworthy for their importance in biostratigraphy. Since microfossils are often extremely abundant, widespread, and quick to appear and disappear from the stratigraphic record, they constitute ideal index fossils from a biostratigraphic perspective. In addition, the planktonic and nektonic habits of some microfossils gives them the added bonus of appearing across a wide range of facies or paleoenvironments, and having near-global distribution making biostratigraphic correlation even more powerful and effective.
Microfossils also provide some of the most important records of global environmental change on long-timescales, particularly from deep-sea sediments. Across vast areas of the ocean floor the shells of planktonic micro-ogranisms sinking from surface waters provide the dominant source of sediment and they continuously accumulate (typically at rates of 20-50m/million years). Study of changes in assemblages of microfossils and of changes in their shell chemistry (e.g oxygen isotope composition) are fundamental to research on climate change in the geological past.
In addition to providing an excellent tool for sedimentary rock-body dating and for paleoenvironmental reconstruction -- heavily used in both petroleum geology and paleoceanography -- micropaleontology has also found a number of less orthodox applications, such as its growing role in forensic police investigation or in provenancing archaeological artefacts.

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