Photo courtesy Valentina Beccari 

Research Areas

We work on Cretaceous to Recent planktonic and benthic foraminifera, calcareous cysts of dinoflagellates and Bolboforma (an incertae sedis microfossil). 

In particular we focus on their taxonomy, biostratigraphy and response to local and global environmental changes. 

We are part of international scientific projects and we also provide consulting on stratigraphy and micropaleontology for oil industry, and environmental governmental agencies.

  • Foraminifera in carbonate system

    One of the main research of the group focuses on foraminifera from cold-water ecosystems (CWCs), their role, biodiversity and response to the environmental factors controlling the dynamic of the entire ecosystem. We aim at identifying potential bioindicators for monitoring the health state of CWCs and to identify these ecosystems in the fossil record when all other components cannot be distinguished anymore and/or are dissolved.

    Our regions of investigations are the Atlantic margins (Norway, Ireland, Biscay, Cadiz), the Alboran Sea in the Western Mediterranean Sea, the Eastern Mediterranean and the Pacific Ocean. To collect our samples we participate to oceanographic campaign, sometimes a few per year.

    To better characterize the environmental conditions of CWCs we also use geochemical proxies. One of the geochemical proxy we currently use is the sedimentary phosphorus (P). Phosphate (PO4) is a nutrient limiting primary productivity in the oceans. When its 5 phases are extracted (by the SEDEX method of Ruttenberg at al., 2009) and coupled with TOC, carbon isotopes of organic matter and benthic foraminifera assemblages it allows to better constrain the source of the organic matter exported to the seafloor.

    Highlights of the group are:  the « Atlas of benthic foraminifera from cold-water coral ecosystems », 2015. Edited by Spezzaferri, S.,  Rüggeberg, A., and Stalder, C., and published as a Cushman Foundation Special Publication. The “Atlas of Oligocene Planktonic Foraminifera” 2018. Edited by XXXXXX and published as a Cushman Foundation Special Publication.

  • Taxonomy

    Taxonomy is the basic tool for micropaleontologists. No environmental, geochemical, morphometric and biomonitoring investigation can be performed without knowing in detail the taxonomy of microfossils, this is the reason why we put a particular attention to this discipline both in teaching and research. 

    As a member of the Paleogene Planktonic Foraminifera Working Group and now of the Neogene Planktonic Foraminifera Working Group (which are part of the International Commission on Stratigraphy) I am involved since 1989, in the investigation of planktonic foraminifera to contribute to the establishment of a biologically-guided classification of these organisms based on morphologies and wall textures.

    We have described several new species, e.g., Catapsydrax indianus Spezzaferri and Pearson 2009; Globoturboralita eolabiacrassata, Globigerinella roeglina XXXXXX, Globigerinoides altospiralis XXXX 2018, Globigerinoides eoconglobatus XXXXXas well as new genera, e.g., Trilobatus XXXXXX 2015, Quiltyella Coxal and Spezzaferri, 2018

    The identification of benthic foraminifera is more based on the general morphology than on wall textures. We have a collection of several hundreds of species/specimens and SEM images that helps us in our routine work. We have also identified new benthic foraminiferal species, e.g., Hyalinea marmarica, Spezzaferri and Yanko XXX.

  • Paleoceanography-paleoecology

    The combination of assemblage composition with various geochemical proxies (total organic carbon, oxygen and carbon isotopes of test and organic matter and phosphorus, just to cite the most commonly used in our group) and with molecular genetic then help us to reconstruct the paleo/environmental settings and phylogenies of fossil species, respectively.

  • Biomonitoring

    I am also founding member and part of the informal core group of the FOraminiferal BIoMOnitoring initiative conceived and developed since 2010. Within FOBIMO we have developed a standard protocol for foraminiferal collection, preparation, investigation and archiviation to be used in foraminiferal biomonitoring studies. The FOBIMO is now  developing a Foraminiferal Index to be used in pollution monitoring for soft bottom sediments.

  • Consulting

    Every year we have a few requests for consulting from universities, governamental institutions and oil companies for investigation of samples and/or for specific stages in micropaleontology.


Silvia Spezzaferri


 Office PER07-2.307


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