d'Orbigny's foraminifera

The Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum

French scientist Alcide d'Orbigny was the first to classify the microscopic organisms we now call Foraminifera. Foraminifera are single-celled, mainly marine animals, with shells made up of multiple chambers. D'Orbigny used models to illustrate the Foraminifera, which he originally named Cephalopodes.

In this image, foraminiferal models are shown with an original manuscript of d'Orbigny's paper on their classification. The manuscript is one of the treasures in our Library.

Foraminifera were little-known until d'Orbigny studied them, and his work changed the way we view biodiversity. It was the first attempt to classify an organism widely used in the study of marine ecosystem evolution and biodiversity. Many of the species d'Orbigny defined in 1826 are commonly used today to study our oceans.

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  • Title: d'Orbigny's foraminifera