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Under the Cortex

Discovering and unravelling the texture of planktonic foraminifera shells. Micro CT scan allowed to investigate in detail the hidden and internal structure of these marine microorganisms.

Planktonic foraminifera are microorganisms constituting the marine zooplankton at the base of the trophic chain. They live in the uppermost layer of the water column and they are sensitive to climate and nutrient variations. Their study allows to better comprehend the interactions between the ocean and the atmosphere and their relation through time. The stratigraphic record of these microfossils let us trace back climate oscillations down to the Jurassic, providing an unmatched proxy.

The peculiar group studied in this investigation have the tendency to overgrow a thick calcite layer on the test. Such layer prevents any investigation on their internal structure and wall texture, all key elements to understand the evolution and the paleoenvironmental interactions between organism-water. The Micro CT scan represents a valid tool to unravel and describe in detail this complex calcite extra layer and how this group of foraminifera overgrows it. The data collected and rendered in high details 3D models have been used in the preparation of a peer-reviewed manuscript. In the future, the 3D models will be printed using the 3D printing facilities at UCL to create educational and outreach figures to share the complexities of the natural world and the possible interaction with cutting-edge technologies.

The data collected are fundamental for a scientific paper in preparation for a peer-reviewed journal. The study will focus on the development of the outer structure in the subfamily Sphaeroidinellinae.