The Farinacci and Howe Catalog - an Introduction

This introduction is adapted from an article that appeared in the Journal Nannoplankton Research (issue 32/2, 2012), introducing a CD-ROM version of the catalog.

Production of the original catalogue

The original descriptions of calcareous nannofossils have been made in numerous different journals, conference proceedings volumes, and books, hence, they can be very difficult to access. Taking inspiration from the Micropaleontology Project ( and its illustrated catalogue of the Foraminifera, Prof. Anna Farinacci set about rectifying this, by compiling descriptions into a standard format and republishing them in a succession of loose-leafed volumes from 1969 to 1989. These 13 volumes were published by Edizione Tecnoscienze and distributed to subscribers across the world.

The data on each taxon is given on a separate sheet, or sheets, and is re-organised into the following fields: Taxon Citation; Illustrations; Description; Remarks; Type Level; Type Locality; Depository; Author; Reference. The volumes were produced as the original descriptions/publications became available, and when time was available for the project. Consequently, each volume included an ad hoc mix of publications, but, since they were produced loose-leafed, it was possible to re-arrange the volumes into a consistent order.

This catalogue was widely used by nannofossil workers, especially biostratigraphers needing to keep abreast of the rapidly proliferating list of new taxa, their inevitable synonyms and their stratigraphic contexts from regions of the globe that were opening up to hydrocarbon exploration and the Deep Sea Drilling Project. develop refined taxonomies of nannofossils. Pressure on Prof. Farinacci’s time meant that the catalogue was not maintained after 1989 (despite her receiving help from Dr. Andrea Fiorentino with the last volume), and the shift towards digital publishing means it would not be cost-effective to restart it now. Nonetheless, it is an invaluable source of data, and the INA has long been interested both in making it more widely available and incorporating it in new initiatives.

Copyright transfer to INA and production of this digital version

In 2008-2009 discussions were held between Anna Farinacci, Simonetta Monechi, Giuliana Villa and Paul Bown, facilitated by various colleagues in Italy. From these, Prof Farinacci generously transferred copyright to the INA. Subsequently, Jackie Lees got funding (from Shell via Shirley van Heck) and had the UCL copy of the catalogue scanned. The individual page-files were then tagged with the species names by Debbie Pledge, a volunteer at the Natural History Museum, working with Jeremy Young. Finally, iView was used to rename the files, using the tags. This version was included on the CD-ROM included in JNR issue 32-2.

For inclusion in Nannotax the same content has been used but with the genera sorted into folders alphabetically by first letter. The pages are displayed as thumbnails and can be browsed in the same manner as the pages in the main part of the Nannotax website. To find a particular taxaon it is best to use the searchbox. When searching, you need to remember that generic combinations and specific epithet endings may have changed. So, for example, a search for Biscutum dubium will not find anything but a search for ‘dubi’ will find the original description of the species as Palaeopontosphaera dubia.

Links to Farinacci catalog pages are also provided in the main Nannotax modules thus providing a quick way for users to see the original descriptions of taxa. These include links to the basionym descriptions for taxa which have been recombined, and to synonyms. The coverage of synonyms is now rather comprehensive, even for Mesozoic taxa. This has been achieved in part by going through all the species in the catalog trying wherever possible to detrmine what modern species is represented.

Caveats and cautions

We have found that the catalogue is a very useful tool and we believe that many researchers will find it invaluable to have a readily accessible online version. However, it does have a specific character, which influences how it should be used. In particular, it is simply a compilation of original descriptions. It is not an encyclopaedia of nannofossil taxonomy, and it should not be used as such. Particular limitations are:

So, it definitely should not be used as an identification manual!

Jeremy R. Young, Jackie A. Lees, Paul R. Bown
University College London

Biography of Anna Farinacci (1923-2015)


Anna Farinacci was one the pioneers of nannofossil study in Italy as well as making a unique contribution to documentation of the science through compilation of the famous Farinacci Catalogue. She graduated in Natural Sciences from Rome with a dissertation on the sedimentary successions of the Central Apennines, published in 1959. Subsequently, working within the Geological Survey of Italy she worked extensively on the Mesozoic geology of Turkey and Albania. Through the early 1960s, she was associated with the Geological Survey of Italy, carrying out integrated fieldwork and micropaleontological analyses, leading to the establishment of a Micropaleontology Laboratory in Rome. In addition to studies on foraminifera and calcareous algae, she began to take an interest in the calcareous nannofacies of Jurassic sediments and in 1964 published a paper on SEM analyses of nannoconids and coccolithophores of the Umbria-Marche Maiolica and Scaglia Formations.

The publication of the Catalogue of Calcareous Nannofossils started in 1969, inspired by the Ellis and Messina catalogues of microfossils. However whilst the Ellis and Messina operation was at least sporadically government supported and employed up to 82 people ( this was largely a solo labour of love. With about 250 pages in each volume, the publication of the thirteen catalogues (the last one in 1989 in cooperation with Andrea Fiorentino) was a massive commitment of time, especially given the difficulty of obtaining the original papers in those pre-digital years.

In another major contribution, Anna Farinacci organized the 2nd Planktonic Conference in Rome in 1970 and published the related proceedings. The second volume of these proceedings was mainly devoted to calcareous nannofossils and included the results of the “Round table on calcareous nannoplankton”. There were 20 participants at this seminal workshop, which approved several propositions related to the identification of species and biostratigraphic analyses. Furthermore, the working group produced a document describing coccolith terminology and a list of nannoplankton workers in the world subdivided by country and different stratigraphic fields.

From the early Eighties Anna was responsible for the organization of the CNR (National Research Council) working group “Stratigraphic Paleontology and Evolution” and at the same time drew up and coordinated the reports which first appeared in the “Quaderni” and subsequently in “Paleopelagos”, a journal which Anna was largely responsible for, for ten years, up to her retirement in 1997. Anna died peacefully at home in Rome, on 23 February 2015 at the age of 92.

Selected bibliography of Anna Farinacci's work

Simonetta Monechi
Università deglie Studi di Firenze
April, 2012

Catalog updating, expansion and renaming - 2016


Richard Howe has been working over many years on compilation of updates, to cover taxa not included in the original 13 volumes of the Farinacci catalog. As with the original compilation this has involved scouring the literature for original descriptions and then reformating the content into standard format. This is now done entirely electronically but the format of the original catalogs is followed.

These updates are now incorporated into the content on the Nannotax website. This is a massive contribution to the Nannotax website. It is also a great affirmation of the value of Anna Farinacci's work and the INA is pleased to now rename the catalog the Farinacci and Howe catalog (although it will take a while for this usage to work through the system)

If you know of taxa which are missing from the catalog please do send Rich reprints or PDFs - especially if they are published in older or more obscure publications.