There has been a progression in palaeobiological classifications from the more primitive empirical “stamp collecting” stage where similar shapes were grouped together, to the more sophisticated phylogenetic classifications where supposed genetically related foraminiferal taxa are categorised together. But how do we know that certain extinct taxa were genetically related? This is a major problem where a number of factors interplay together: a belief in evolution, the experience of the operator and consequent recognition of phyletic lineages. In the study of Cenozoic planktonic foraminifera we are fortunate to have recognised a number of now well established lineages; also we have some data on amino-acids found in the tests of living species (King and Hare, 1972) which range back well into the Neogene. These latter data not only provide us with essential genetic information but they also give us confidence when dealing with the classification of extinct species.
So how do we build this evolutionary knowledge into a classification? Clearly, genetically related species can be grouped together into subgenera, and related subgenera into broader genera. In their classification Loeblich and Tappan (1988) held a different view and decided not to use subgenera because (1) their usage produces an unwieldy classification, and (2) lineage concepts change when additional data are collected. If we follow their classification, then when you read about Globorotalia menardii, Globorotalia fohsi and Globorotalia hirsuta you could assume that they are closely related; this is not true. The three species have similar test morphologies but these have resulted from iterative. . .
- © 1990 The Micropalaeontological Society