Paper Overview – David King – Caribbean Oligo-Miocene foraminiferal biostratigraphy

King et al 2020 Caribbean Oligo Miocene planktonic foraminiferal biostratigraphy Paper Review

We are pleased to announce the publication “A review of the importance of the Caribbean region in Oligo-Miocene low latitude planktonic foraminiferal biostratigraphy and the implications for modern biogeochronological schemes“. The lead author of this paper is PetroStrat’s David King, one of our micropalaeontology team. This paper details his PhD research and summarizes his key findings.

Exclusive paper overview by lead author David King

david king petrostrat micropaleontologist stratigrapher staff photo

“The Caribbean region provided the fundamental building blocks in recognising the biostratigraphic utility of planktonic foraminifera, and although biostratigraphy is continually evolving, contextualising the historical development enables us to have a greater appreciation of the stepwise improvements in the state of the art.”

David King (Micropalaeontologist, PetroStrat)

Summary – Caribbean region in Oligo-Miocene low latitude planktonic foraminiferal biostratigraphy and the implications for modern biogeochronological schemes

The major drive in prospecting for oil and gas reserves in the Caribbean during the mid-part of the 20th century provided the catalyst for recognising the biostratigraphic utility of planktonic foraminifera. Pioneering work in Southern Trinidad led to the initial biostratigraphic framework and zonation, which then was expanded upon with more extensive studies in Trinidad, as well as eastern Venezuela. The problematic late Miocene interval required additional localities to be studied, with other Venezuelan localities and eastern Jamaica becoming vital, which culminated in a complete Neogene biostratigraphic record.

With the advent of the Deep Sea Drilling Program (DSDP) in 1968, and as the ability to provide an integrated stratigraphy became greater, later work focused on the complete cored records as opposed to the discrete outcrop samples associated with the Caribbean research. However, this represented more an evolution of the Caribbean studies which still provided the biostratigraphic backbone for the DSDP expeditions but offered the opportunity to put the observed bioevents in a chronostratigraphic sense with the integration with other stratigraphic disciplines. Indeed, many of the bioevents first recognised in the Caribbean are still incorporated into the modern day low latitude planktonic foraminiferal biogeochronologies.

In King et al. (2020) we provide an extensive historical review on the development of low latitude planktonic foraminifera biostratigraphy in the Oligo-Miocene and bring this in line with our modern understanding, particularly highlighting the importance of the Caribbean work. This paper formed the basis of a chapter from my PhD thesis, however the manuscript itself with written up with the support of PetroStrat. Discussions with the micropalaeontology team also helped this study to develop and gain further valuable insights into the subsequent development of planktonic foraminiferal biostratigraphy.

Read the full paper on Science Direct

David J. King, Bridget S. Wade, Robert D. Liska, C. Giles Miller. A review of the importance of the Caribbean region in Oligo-Miocene low latitude planktonic foraminiferal biostratigraphy and the implications for modern biogeochronological schemes, Earth-Science Reviews, 202, 102968 (2020).


Planktonic foraminifera are widely used in marine biostratigraphy thanks to their small size, limited stratigraphic range and abundance in oceanic sediments. The utility of planktonic foraminifera in biostratigraphy was first fully recognised within the Caribbean region during the middle of the 20th century. The area was critical for the subsequent development of the low latitude biostratigraphic schemes and remains fundamental for modern day biogeochronologies. This study presents a historical review of the Oligo-Miocene component of these biostratigraphic schemes, including the first proposed scheme of Cushman and Stainforth (1945) and the subsequent development. The work of Hans Bolli and Walter Blow is particularly highlighted due to their heavy influence on modern day biostratigraphy, including these authors initially recognising the biostratigraphic utility of a number of bioevents still applied today. These Caribbean-centric schemes are correlated to the modern-day low latitude biogeochronology of Wade et al. (2011), with this synthesis highlighting that a number of bioevents (e.g. Top Paragloborotalia kugleri and Top Catapsydrax dissimilis) have been applied consistently since their initial recognition. This in turn allows the recognisability of these bioevents to be deduced based on how consistently applied each datum has been. In addition, the range charts of six studies focusing heavily on the Caribbean have been reassessed to determine whether there is potential to apply a given bioevent, and the original author merely did not recognise the biostratigraphic utility of the species or favoured another bioevent.

In considering this historical review, a number of amendments to Wade et al. (2011) and future priorities to planktonic foraminifera biogeochronologies are suggested. Most notably, the re-introduction of Base Globigerinatella insueta as a primary bioevent due to the historical biostratigraphic importance of this species. This event now defines early Miocene Subzone M3b (Gt. insueta/Ct. dissimilis PRZ) dividing Zone M3 into an upper Subzone M3b (Base Gt. insueta) and lower Subzone M3a (Base Globigerinatella sp.). Finally, the Miocene to Recent timescale of Wade et al. (2011) has been recalibrated following more recent updates to the magnetostratigraphy (Kochhann et al., 2016; Ogg et al., 2016; Drury et al., 2017; Beddow et al., 2018) and cyclostratigraphy (Wilkens et al., 2017). The overall effect on the planktonic foraminifera biogeochronology is minor but our results become the suggested biostratigraphic framework for the low latitudes.

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