Foraminifera collection

Nummullites gizehensis

The tiny chambers of Nummullites gizehensis, once occupied by the animals, are sometimes filled with crude oil

The Museum has a strong tradition of foraminifera research dating back to the late 1800s.

As a result, the foraminifera collection - with approximately 250,000 slides - is the most extensive of our micropalaeontological collections.

250,000                            6

Specimens                                       Major collections

Major collections

The collections consist of both fossil and recent (living) specimens and contains a number of important sub-collections:

  • HMS Challenger collection
  • Former British Petroleum micropalaeontology collection
  • Former Aberystwyth Microfossil Collection
  • Former Iraq Petroleum Company collection
  • Henry Buckley collection
  • Heron-Allen slide collection

HMS Challenger collection

The HMS Challenger expedition (1872-1876) collected vast amounts of oceanographic data. The resulting collection is of historical and taxonomic importance for studying foraminifera. 

The collection includes original samples dating back to the early period of the Industrial Revolution, providing a valuable resource for current and future research.

Former British Petroleum micropalaeontology collection

Contains the microfossil well-run samples from British Petroleum's exploration activities since the 1950s, including slides and residues from over 3,800 well and outcrop localities worldwide. The collection covers more than 120 countries.

The collection includes:

  • micropalaeontological slides
  • palynological slides (c. 78,000)
  • nannofossil slides
  • faunal slides
  • loose specimens
  • residues
  • the former British Petroleum microfossil reference collection (foraminifera and ostracoda)

Former British Petroleum microfossil database

Former Aberystwyth Microfossil Collection

The collection includes:

  • a wide variety of studies covering many geological periods
  • older studies of contemporary foraminifera assemblage

These provide a unique opportunity to revisit numerous settings and evaluate changes in foraminifera abundance and diversity over time.

Former Aberystwyth microfossil collection database 

Former Iraq Petroleum Company collection

The former Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC) collection contains benthic foraminifera from the Middle East, covering the Palaeozoic, Mesozoic and Cenozoic eras.

The collection is particularly important for reconstructing environmental change and the geological history of the area.

The collections cover

  • Bahrain
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Kuwait
  • Oman
  • Qatar
  • Saudi Arabia
  • United Arab Emirates

Henry Buckley collection

The Henry Buckley collection of planktonic foraminifera contains material from around the world, and is a valuable resource for studying the effects of global change on recent foraminifera.

You can access the Henry Buckley collection data online via the Data Portal. Individual specimen entries, including images, can be found by searching within the Data Portal.

The collection contains 1,665 slides from 203 samples, as well as thin sections of ocean bottom deposits and sample washings from sample locations corresponding to the slide collection. It also contains approximately 10,000 scanning electron microscope micrographs.

Heron-Allen slide collection

The vast Heron-Allen collection contains 740 slides of foraminifera, including specimens from historic expeditions such as HMS Challenger and Terra Nova. A complete catalogue of the collection is available as an Excel spreadsheet. 

The collection includes specimens from around the globe, collected between 1873 and the 1930s. Many notable research expeditions are represented, including:

  • HMS Challenger
  • Discovery I and II
  • Terra Nova
  • William Scoresby
  • Goldseeker
  • Scotia

Heron-Allen slide collection database (Excel 5.5MB)

Looking for a specimen?

The foraminifera collection is being digitised

Senior Curator

Dr Stephen Stukins 

Principal Curator

Dr Giles Miller

Any questions ?

If you would like to use any specimens for research   


Jones RW (1994) The Challenger Foraminifera. Oxford University Press: Oxford, 150pp.

Holbourn A and Henderson A (in press) Paleobase: Deep-Sea Benthic Foraminifera. Blackwell Scientific: Oxford.

Buckley, H A, Johnson, L (1988) Late Pleistocene to Recent sediment deposition in the central and western Mediterranean. Deep Sea Research, 35(5), 749-766. doi:10.1016/0198-0149(88)90028-3

Shackleton, N J, Wiseman, J D H, Buckley H A (1973) Non-equilibrium isotopic fractionation between seawater and planktonic foraminiferal tests. Nature 242, 177-179. doi:10.1038/242177a0

Accessing the collections

Scientists and collections management specialists can visit the collections and borrow specimens for research.

Collections management

Our duty is to provide a safe and secure environment for all of our collections.

Collections on the move

We have set out on an ambitious programme to develop a new science and digitisation centre. As we prepare for the move, access to some collections will be affected. 

Find out more and sign up to our newsletter to receive updates on changes to collections access, relevant news and opportunities to get involved.