pforams@mikrotax - Introduction to the Mesozoic Database

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Objective: This part of the site aims to provide an authoritative guide to the biodiversity and taxonomy of Mesozoic planktonic foraminifera, a group of microscopic protists whose shells can be found in ocean sediments today and whose fossil record extends into the Jurassic Period (~170 million years ago). Their accurate identification is key to determining sediment age, reconstructing past climate and ocean conditions and past extinction and speciation events. The database is both a working tool for specialists and an accessible reference source for anyone looking for information on planktonic foraminifera..

What's on the pforams@microtax site: The main sections of the site, as accessed from the menu bar, are:

Catalog vs. Database The are TWO parallel databases on the site. The catalog is a database of original descriptions and type illustrations, it is arranged alphabetically and includes many taxa which are currently regarded as junior synonyms. The main database by contrast is a synthesis of current state of the art taxonomy, it only contains taxa we regard as useful, they are organised taxonomically, and usually are illustrated with new images of good specimens. See also further discussion.

Layout: On higher taxon pages there is an automatically-generated table, this displays for each daughter taxon (a) representative images, (b) a short diagnosis (these mostly need to be written), and (c) a list of grand-daughter taxa. This is a novel approach to arranging taxonomic websites but we consider it preferable to any alternatives we have seen.

Geological search: A special feature of the site is that the taxa from a selected geological time period can be highlighted - via the Time Control page (Tools Menu). For example if the time period 10 to 20 million years ago is selected then taxa from this time period appear at the top of lists and are coloured blue while taxa outside this time period appear at the bottom of lists and are coloured olive green. The timescale underpinning the system is GTS2012, courtesy of Prof. James Ogg. All stratigraphic data on the site is stored in primary stratigraphic units (e.g. Albian, or Zone NN12) and so correlations to the timescale can be updated by changing a single lookup table.

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Who are we?

The Mesozoic database has been primarily created by two authors, Brian Huber and Maria Rose Petrizzo, with the assistance of the Mesozoic Planktonic Foraminiferal Working Group. They have been collaborating on planktonic foraminiferal studies for >12 years and shared the outlook that taxonomy is fundamental to good research and wide dissemination and communication of taxonomic knowledge is an essential foundation for our science.
BrianDr. Brian T. Huber is Curator of Planktic Foraminifera at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. He has undetaken diverse research using planktonic foraminifera with a strong emphasis on taxonomy. This has led to his participation in several taxonomic working groups and development of the taxonomic atlases and databases.
MariaRoseProf. Maria Rose Petrizzo is Researcher and Professor at the Department of Earth Sciences, University of Milano (Italy). She is an active member of the Mesozoic Planktonic Foraminifera Working Group and has both published extensively on planktonic foraminiferal taxonomy and taught many specialist courses.
JeremyDr. Jeremy R. Young was trained in planktonic foraminiferal taxonomy by Prof. Fred Banner in 1982, while on the UCL Micropalaeontolgy MSc. Since then he has worked predominantly on nannofossils, however, recently this has included developing the nannotax website and underlying mikrotax palaeontological content management system. He is responsible for website development and for migration of content into the system.

History

The database of Mesozoic planktonic foraminifera was initially compiled by a team lead by Brian Huber as part of the NSF funded Chronos Project and was hosted on the Chronos website (www.chronos.org). The database was compiled continuously from 2005 to 2015 with special emphasis placed on re-imaging type specimens, compiling original descriptions and developing a standardised matrix of descriptive characters.

In 2016 a substantial grant was awarded to Prof Paul Bown and Bridget Wade of University College London by the UK Natural Environment Research Council to develop a new website of planktonic foraminiferal taxonomy based on migration of the Chronos content into the mikrotax system, as developed for the nannotax website.

Future plans for the Mesozoic content - with the new system in place it is hoped to substantially improve the depth of data available on the system. This is being lead by Brian Huber and any specialists interested in contributing are urged to contact him.

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Feedback

Commenting is now possible on all taxon pages - this is intended for discussion of taxa. We would also be very interested in any comments, suggestions, or corrections, from any users on the site itself- please use the forum page for this - or just drop us an email.


Thanks

We have been helped by many people, societies and funding bodies in setting up pforams@mikrotax. Here is some formal acknowledgement of this. Nonetheless, the content of the site is our responsibility, these organisations have not vetted it and do not necessarily endorse all aspects of it.

logoThe US National Science Foundation funded the Chronos Project including initial development of the database on which this site is based. It has also funded much other research on planktonic foraminifera
logoThe UK Natural Environment Research Council awarded us a substantial grant (2016-2018) under the Innovation Projects scheme. This is paying for much of the development of the site. NERC has also funded much of the research on which the site is built.
logoThe Smithsonian Institute's National Museum of Natural History has the world's largest collection of fossil foraminifera and is the base for much of the work on the project.
logoThe International Ocean Discovery Program and precursor ODP and DSDP projects have played a massve role in microfossil research. The current project in part stems from taxonomic compilation work we undertook for the IODP JANUS database and we will make the system avaialble onboard the JOIDES Resolution.
logoUniversity College London is the base for website-development work on the site.
logoProf James Ogg (Purdue University) has encouraged development of this site and provided calibration data from TimeScaleCreator. Reciprocally, TimeScaleCreator will use images from and link back to the site.
logoThe Micropalaeontological Society supports the project, particularly through hosting of the mikrotax site.