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World Foraminifera Database

Current number of valid modern species recorded: 8,959
Current number of valid fossil species recorded: 28,098
Current number of total valid (fossil + modern) species recorded: 36,648

The World Foraminifera Database

This World Database of all species of Foraminifera ever described, is part of the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS), a global initiative to provide a register of all marine organisms.

What are Foraminifera?

Foraminifera (‘hole bearers’), foraminifers or forams for short, are a large phylum of amoeboid protozoans (single celled) with reticulating pseudopods, fine strands of cytoplasm that branch and merge to form a dynamic net. They usually produce a test (or shell) which can have one or more chambers, and are made of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) or mineral grains or other particles glued together. The tests are usually less than 0.5 mm in size, but the largest can be up to 20 cm across. Foraminifera are among the most abundant and scientifically important groups of organisms. The tests of recently dead planktic foraminifera are so abundant that they form a thick blanket over one third of the surface of the Earth (as Globigerina ooze on the ocean floor). Foraminifera are essentially marine and estuarine-dwelling protozoans living in all environments from the greatest depths right up to highest astronomical tide level and from the equator to the poles.

The importance of foraminifera comes from the use of their fossil tests in biostratigraphy, paleoenvironment studies, and isotope geochemistry. Their ubiquity in most marine sedimentary rocks, often as large, well-preserved, diverse assemblages, has resulted in their being the most studied group of fossils worldwide. Because modern foraminifera have attracted little interest from biologists, paleontologists have been forced to undertake most studies, including genetic research, on the living fauna.

This site has the following aims:

  • to provide a catalogue of the world's foraminiferal species
  • to promote stability in foraminiferal nomenclature
  • to act as a tool for higher taxonomic revisions and regional monographs

Quinqueloculina bulloides d'Orbigny in Terquem, 1878, author: Le Coze, Franois
Rhabdammina discreta, author: Cedhagen, Tomas
Nodosaria raphanus, author: Cedhagen, Tomas

Higher classification

The list of currently accepted species-group names is at least 90% complete for modern species, but the taxonomy of many taxa still needs revision and newly described species will be added as soon as possible after publication, a task that will be undertaken continuously by the editors. Fossil genera and higher taxa are mostly complete but fossil species will take many years to add in. There is currently no broad consensus available for the higher classification of the Foraminifera. Here, the classification given in Loeblich and Tappan (1987 and 1992) is mostly used for calcareous taxa and Kaminski (2004) is followed for agglutinated taxa, but the higher level classification of Foraminifera is in a state of revision and has been updated to comply with the genetic sequence-based results to date of Pawlowski et al. (2013). Further results of ongoing molecular phylogenetic investigations will hopefully help to stabilise the taxonomic system in the future.

  • Kaminski, M. A. (2004). The Year 2000 Classification of the Agglutinated Foraminifera. In: M. K. Bubik, Ma. (ed). Proceedings of the Sixth International Workshop on Agglutinated Foraminifera. Grzybowski Foundation Special Publication. Pp. 237-255.
  • Loeblich, A. R., and Tappan, H. (1987). "Foraminiferal genera and their classification." Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York.
  • Loeblich, A. R., and Tappan, H. (1992). Present status of foraminiferal classification. In "Studies in Benthic foraminifera. Proceedings of the Fourth Symposium on benthic foraminifera, Sendai, 1990." (Y. Takayanagi, and T. Saito, Eds.), pp. 93-102. Tokai University Press, Tokyo.
  • Pawlowski, J., Holzmann, M., Tyszka, J. (2013). New supraordinal classification of Foraminifera: Molecules meet morphology. Marine Micropaleontology 100, 1-10

Steering Committee

A steering committee provides international oversight and fosters the compilation and rationalisation of the World Modern Foraminifera Database.

The Steering Committee members are:


Enter data and make taxonomic decisions in the groups they have responsibility for:

  • Hayward, Bruce: Buliminida, Carterinida, Globigerinida, Lagenida, Miliolida, Robertinida, Rotaliida, Spirilinida, Xenophyophoroidea

Editors are responsible for entries, decision on validity of names. Corrections and omissions may be addressed to the relevant editor or the general editor.

Currently (2017), there are 36,648 “valid” species in the database (among 10,300 taxon names). Acceptance is an editorial decision, but we acknowledge such decisions need to be re-examined frequently in the light of new information. If you disagree with senior synonymy decisions or genus assignments, please let us have your - well argumented - corrected assignment.

History of the Foraminiferal list

The World Foraminifera Database began as the European modern species list compiled by Tomas Cedhagen and Onno Gross. Added to this in 2010 were the Gulf of Mexico modern species list compiled by Barun Sen Gupta and colleagues and the New Zealand modern species list compiled by Bruce Hayward and colleagues.

  • Gross, O. (2001). Foraminifera, in: Costello, M.J. et al. (Ed.) (2001). European register of marine species: a check-list of the marine species in Europe and a bibliography of guides to their identification. Collection Patrimoines Naturels, 50: 60-75.
  • Hayward, B.W., Tendal, O.S., Carter, R., Grenfell, H.R., Morgans, H.E.G., Scott, G.H., Strong, C.P., Hayward, J.J. (in press) Phylum Foraminifera. Foraminifera and Xenophyophores. In: Gordon, D.P. (ed). New Zealand Inventory of biodiversity: A Species 2000 Symposium Review. Canterbury University Press,. Christchurch. Pp.
  • Sen Gupta, B.K., Smith, L.E., Machain-Castillo, M.L. (2009). Foraminifera of the Gulf of Mexico, Pp. 87–129 in Felder, D.L. and D.K. Camp (eds.), Gulf of Mexico–Origins, Waters, and Biota. Biodiversity. Texas A&M Press, College Station, Texas.

Since then records have been added from the following major foraminiferal atlases:

  • Cimerman, F., Langer, M.R. (1991). "Mediterranean Foraminifera." Sovenska Akademia, Ljubljana.
  • Debenay, J-P. (2012). “A guide to 1,000 Foraminifera from Southwestern Pacific New Caledonia.” IRD Editions, Institut de recherche por le developement, Marseille., 378 p.
  • Hayward, B.W. (1990). "Taxonomy, paleogeography and evolutionary history of the Bolivinellidae (Foraminiferida)." New Zealand Geological Survey Paleontological Bulletin 63, 132 p.
  • Hayward, B.W., Hollis, C.J., Grenfell, H.R. (1997). "Recent Elphidiidae (Foraminiferida) of the South-west Pacific and fossil Elphidiidae of New Zealand." New Zealand Geological Survey Paleontological Bulletin 72, 166 p.
  • Hayward, B.W., Grenfell, H.R., Reid, C.M., Hayward, K.A. (1999). “Recent New Zealand shallow-water benthic foraminifera: Taxonomy, ecologic distribution, biogeography, and use in paleoenvironmental assessment.” Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences Monograph 21, 258 p.
  • Hayward, B.W., Grenfell, H.R., Sabaa, A.T., Neil, H., Buzas, M.A. (2010). “Recent New Zealand deep-water benthic foraminifera: taxonomy, ecologic distribution, biogeography, and use in paleoenvironmental assessment”. Institute of Geological & Nuclear Sciences Monograph 26, 363 p.
  • Hayward, B.W., Kawagata, S., Sabaa, A.T., Grenfell, H.R., van Kerckhoven, L., Johnson, K., Thomas, E. (2012). “The last global extinction (Mid-Pleistocene) of deep-sea benthic foraminifera (Chrysalogoniidae, Ellipsoidinidae, Glandulonodosariidae, Plectofrondiculariidae, Pleursostomellidae, Stilostomellidae), their Late Cretaceous-Cenozoic history and taxonomy.” Cushman Foundation for Foraminiferal Research Special Publication 43, 408 p.
  • Hottinger, L., Halicz, E., Reiss, Z. (1993). "Recent Foraminiferida from the Gulf of Aqaba, Red Sea." Slovenske Akademija, Ljubljana.
  • Jones, R.W. (1994). "The Challenger Foraminifera." Oxford University Press.
  • Loeblich, A.R., Tappan, H. (1994). Foraminifera of the Sahul Shelf and Timor Sea, Cushman Foundation for Foraminiferal Research Special Publication 31, 661 p.
  • McCulloch, I., 1977. Qualitative observations on Recent foraminiferal tests with emphasis on the Eastern Pacific". University of Southern California, Los Angeles, 3 vols.
  • McCulloch, I., 1981. Qualitative observations on Recent foraminiferal tests. Part IV, with emphasis on the Allan Hancock Atlantic Expedition collections. University of Southern California, Los Angeles, 364 p.
  • Papp, A., Schmidt, M.E. (1985). “Die fossilen Foraminiferen des Tertiaren Beckens von Wien. Revision der Monographie von Alcide d'Orbigny (1846).” Abhandlungen der Geologischen Bundesanstalt 37, 1-311.
  • Parker, J.H. (2009). Taxonomy of Foraminifera from Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia. Association of Australian Palaeontologists Memoir 36, 810 p.
  • Rögl, F., Hansen, H.J. (1984). “Foraminifera described by Fichtel and Moll in 1798: A revision of Testacea Microscopica.” Neue Denkschriften des Naturhistorischen Museum in Wien 3, 1-143
  • Venec-Peyre, M.T. (2005). “Les Planches inedites de Foraminiferes d'Alcide d'Orbigny”. À l’aube de la micropaléontologie. 302 p. Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, Paris.
  • Yassini, I., Jones, B.G. (1995). "Recent Foraminifera and Ostracoda from estuarine and shelf environments on the southeastern coast of Australia." University of Wollongong Press, Wollongong, NSW.

Also added are all the records of species described from modern sediment, compiled from Ellis and Messina Catalogue of Foraminifera and by Johannes Pignatti.

Who described the largest number of modern Foraminiferal species?

  • McCulloch – 2365
  • Cushman – 1002
  • D’Orbigny – 694
  • Brady – 394

Literature Library

The literature library currently contains ~8000 references


The Photogallery currently contains ~5000 images linked to species records, mostly entered by Tomas Cedhagen from Brady’s Challenger volume and Cushman monographs:

  • Brady, H.B. (1884). Report on the Foraminifera dredged by HMS Challenger, during the years 1873-1876. Reports of the Scientific Results of the Voyage of HMS Challenger Zoology 9, 814 p.
  • Cushman, J.A. 1910-1917. A Monograph of the Foraminifera of the North Pacific Ocean. Part I-VI. Bulletin of U.S. National Museum 71.
  • Cushman, J.A. 1918-1931. The Foraminifera of the Atlantic Ocean. Parts 1- 8. Bulletin of U.S. National Museum 104.
  • Cushman, J.A. 1921. Foraminifera of the Philippine and adjacent seas. Bulletin of U.S. National Museum 100(4).
  • Cushman, J.A. 1932-1942 The Foraminifera of the Tropical Pacific Collections of the ”Albatross”. Parts I-3. Bulletin of U.S. National Museum 161.
  • Goës, A. 1894. A Synopsis of the Arctic and Scandinavian recent marine Foraminifera hitherto discovered. Kong. Svenska Vetenskaps-Akademiens Handlingar 25(9): 1-127 + 25 pls.
  • Hayward, B.W., 1990. Taxonomy, paleogeography and evolutionary history of the Bolivinellidae (Foraminiferida). New Zealand Geological Survey Paleontological Bulletin 63, 132 p.
  • Hayward, B.W., Hollis, C.J., Grenfell, H.R., 1997. Recent Elphidiidae (Foraminiferida) of the South-west Pacific and fossil Elphidiidae of New Zealand. New Zealand Geological Survey Paleontological Bulletin 72, 166 p.
  • Hayward, B.W., Grenfell, H.R., Reid, C.M., Hayward, K.A., 1999. Recent New Zealand shallow-water benthic foraminifera: Taxonomy, ecologic distribution, biogeography, and use in paleoenvironmental assessment. Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences Monograph 21, 258 p.
  • Hayward, B.W., Grenfell, H.R., Sabaa, A.T., Neil, H., Buzas, M.A. 2010. Recent New Zealand deep-water benthic foraminifera: taxonomy, ecologic distribution, biogeography, and use in paleoenvironmental assessment. Institute of Geological & Nuclear Sciences Monograph 26, 363 p.
  • Höglund, H. 1947. Foraminifera in the Gullmar fjord and the Skagerak. Zoologiska Bidrag från Uppsala 26: 1-328 + 32 pls.
  • Todd, R. 1965. The Foraminifera of the Tropical Pacific Collections of the Albatross”, 1899-1900. Part 4. Rotaliform families and planktonic families [End of Volume]. Bulletin of U.S. National Museum 161: 139 pp.+28 pls.

Links to other Foriminiferal sites

To assist the beginner or the non-specialist we provide here a selection of links to foraminiferal websites for further information.


By downloading or consulting data from this website, the visitor acknowledges that he/she agrees to the following:

If data are extracted from this website for secondary analysis resulting in a publication, the website should be cited as follows:

  • Hayward, B.W.; Cedhagen, T.; Kaminski, M.; Gross, O. (2017). World Foraminifera Database. Accessed at on 2017-07-23

If any data constitutes a substantial proportion of the records used in secondary analyses (i.e. more than 25% of the data are derived from this source, or the data are essential to arrive at the conclusion of the analysis), the authors/managers of the database should be contacted. It may be useful to contact us directly in case there are additional data that may strengthen the analysis or there are features of the data that are important to consider but may not have been apparent from the metadata.


The World List is a searchable catalogue of species and higher taxa names.

Navigating this catalogue starts with clicking on one of the choices in the menu, which you find on the top of each page

  • Introduction will lead you this introductory section
  • Search taxa will lead to a query page through which all taxon pages can be accessed
  • Browse taxa will lead to a taxonomic tree
  • Checklist will lead to a query page in which a geounit can directly be picked if the exact name of the unit is already known. This way a list of taxa for a given area can be found quickly.
  • Attributes will lead to a page to query (mainly) fossil ranges
  • Stats some statistics about the World Foraminifera Database
  • Sources will lead to a query page for References of Foraminifera literature.
  • Images will lead to photogallery with images
  • Login only available to editors.

For each foraminiferal species or infraspecific taxon, accepted or not, there may be the following entries:

  1. genus name
  2. the subgenus name, if applicable,
    N.B. subgenus names do not need to be cited at all times according to the ICZN; acceptance of combinations without subgenus names is considered ‘alternative representation’ in the database.
  3. the species name
  4. the infraspecific name, if applicable
  5. the author and year of the species name, without or with brackets depending on whether it is the original combination or not
  6. The AphiaID (a unique numerical database identifier)
  7. The higher classification (according to Loeblich and Tappan, 1990, 1992)
  8. The status as ‘accepted’ or ‘unaccepted’ (if applicable; junior synonymy is usually based on published revision)
  9. Record status (indicates who checked the record)
  10. Rank of taxon, e.g. species
  11. Parent: immediately higher taxon, e.g. genus, to which the present taxon belongs
  12. Synonymized taxa: the list of junior synonyms linked to the present name
  13. Sources: literature reference of the original description and if applicable to a recent revision (as the ‘basis of the record’).
  14. Child taxa: all immediate subordinate taxa, e.g. subspecies
  15. Environment: marine or brackish
  16. Fossil range: recent only or also known as fossil (soon epoch ranges will be available)
  17. Distribution: indication of the modern geographic distribution of the taxon, at least based on the origin of the holotype,
    Different geounits may be indicated, preferably the Marine Ecoregion (see Spalding et al. 2007), but frequently also the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone. The distribution areas of the junior synonyms are automatically shown with each ‘accepted species’
  18. Specimen: type specimen information, or published specimen information
  19. Links: to other foraminiferal resources, to images and other information on specific servers. Current general links are: Genbank, etc.
  20. Notes: any further relevant information, including descriptions, comments, explanations, etc.
  21. Images: photos or other images uploaded to the site
    We prefer ‘objective’ images of the taxa, such as photos or illustrations of type specimens. We do not encourage photos of unidentified foraminifera, but reliably identified copyright free images are welcome.
  22. LSID notation: (similar to ISBN in publications)
  23. Edit history: date of entry and changes made, name of editor
  24. Links to a Taxonomic tree, Google, Google Scholar and Google images.

The records on higher taxa generally have the same structure as those of the species records. Not all of the above items already exist for all taxa entered in the database, but they will be added as time permits.

What you can do with this database at this time is find out what the currently accepted combination is of your subject foraminifer, what its currently accepted higher taxon affiliation is, and from where it was originally described. You can also check which accepted species occur in a higher taxon. What you cannot (yet) do is find every published combination of genus and species name, as we have given priority so far to the original and the currently accepted combinations (so non-original non-accepted combinations are frequently still lacking). What you also cannot do comprehensively is trace the distributions of species and higher taxa or extract regional lists of species, because there is as yet no consistency in the data entered from around the world.

Website and databases developed and hosted by VLIZ · Page generated 2017-07-23 GMT · contact: Hayward, B.W.