Microhabitats of benthic foraminifera within deep-sea sediments
Benthic foraminifera are protozoans found throughout the deep-sea environment, secreting a test of calcium carbonate or constructing a test of cemented sediment particles (agglutinated or arenaceous foraminifera). In typical deep-sea sediments, the organic cement of agglutinated taxa degrades upon burial in the sediment and, consequently, few specimens survive in the fossil record. In contrast, calcareous species are well preserved in most oceanic sediments, except at abyssal depths where most carbonate sediment is dissolved because of high levels of carbonate under-saturation of the bottom waters. Although benthic foraminifera have been widely used in studies of Cenozoic palaeoceanography, little is known about the ecology of deep-sea species. I present here an analysis of living (stained) benthic foraminifera within the upper 15 cm of deep-sea sediments, which reveals species-specific microhabitat preferences, with distinct morphological features found with epifaunal and infaunal species. The existence of infaunal habitats suggests that the distribution of certain foraminifera is not directly controlled by overlying bottom-water conditions, but by physicochemical conditions within the sediments. The microhabitat preferences may also explain interspecific carbon isotope differences, as existing data show that infaunal foraminifera generally have lower δ13C isotope values than epifaunal species. © 1985 Nature Publishing Group.