© 2018 Elsevier B.V. Marine environmental status can be assessed through the study of bio-indicator species. Here, we monitor natural environmental stress by the occurrence of morphologically abnormal planktonic foraminiferal specimens from a suite of surface sediments in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. We also compare Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) abnormality observations from sapropel S1-derived sediments in the Aegean, Libyan and Levantine basins, since they provide a direct record of a natural stress experiment that took place over past time scales. At initial sapropel deposition levels, we observe increased growth asymmetry in Globigerinoides ruber twinned and twisted individuals, possibly associated with eutrophication and anoxia. In modern material, a range of malformations and aberrant morphologies from slight deformity with smaller or overdeveloped chambers to more severe deformity with abnormally protruding or misplaced chambers, distorted spirals, and double tests is also observed, as a result of the hypersaline, oligotrophic and oxygen-depleted nature of the Mediterranean Sea water column. Overall, we highlight the current use of the relative abundance of abnormal tests as a bio-indicator for monitoring natural stress, especially the occurrence of twin specimens as indicative of high-salinity stress conditions, and further illustrate the necessity to map both their spatial and temporal distribution for accurate paleoenvironmental reconstructions. Such an approach presents the advantage to rapidly provide information over wide spatial and temporal scales, extending our ability to monitor a wide variety of environments (from coastal to the open-sea). However, further investigations should extend this approach to test the robustness of our findings in a number of similar oceanic settings.
- Eastern Mediterranean hydrodynamics
- Marine ecosystem monitoring
- Natural stress
- Twin planktonic bio-indicators