Nannotax3 - ntax_cenozoic - Alisphaeraceae Nannotax3 - ntax_cenozoic - Alisphaeraceae


Classification: ntax_cenozoic -> Coccolith families inc sed -> Alisphaeraceae
Sister taxa: Alisphaeraceae, Papposphaeraceae, Umbellosphaeraceae, narrow rimmed placoliths, Coccolith genera inc sed, U. heterococcoliths

Daughter taxa (time control age-window is: 0-800Ma)Granddaughter taxa
Coccoliths placolith-like, with asymmetrical distal flange

Coccoliths elongate oblong muroliths with asymmetric distal flange
Canistrolithus valliformis
Canistrolithus sp.

Polycrater phase
Phase with quadrate, cup-like nannoliths
Alisphaera unicornis POL
Alisphaera gaudii POL
Canistrolithus valliformis POL
Polycrater sp. with lip-like borders
Polycrater sp. minimum
Polycrater sp. with slit
Polycrater sp. ladle-like
Polycrater sp. two petals modified two absent
Polycrater sp.


Citation: Alisphaeraceae Young et al., 2003
taxonomic rank: Family
Type species: Alisphaera Heimdal 1973.
Taxonomic discussion: The genera Alisphaera, and Canistrolithus are combined in this family on the grounds of very similar, and distinctive coccolith structure. Polycrater is included following observation of combination coccospheres (Cros & Fortuño 2002, Supraha et al. 2018). This is an aragonitic nannolith (Manton & Oates 1980, Young et al. 1999) and strongly supports the family-level separation of this group.

Distinguishing features:
Parent taxon (Coccolith families inc sed): 2N: Various heterococcolith groups not obviously related to the well-defined orders
N: mostly unknown

This taxon: Heterococcoliths asymetric, arranged in meridional rows on coccosphere; V-unit forms flange, R-unit basal. Also nannolith phase "Polycrater" with quadrate aragonitic liths.

Farinacci & Howe catalog pages: Alisphaeraceae [no catalog entry yet]


Overview: The Alisphaeraceae is a diverse family of extant coccolithophores, of rather low abundance and producing very small coccoliths. Their fossil record is virtually undocumented, but occasional specimens can be found in well-preserved sediments. As explained below, the coccolith structure does not fit easily in any of the main coccolith groups, and the alternate life-cycle phase produces quadrate aragonitic cup-shaped nannoliths instead of holococcoliths.

Heterococcolith stage: motile, coccosphere with liths regularly arranged in meridional rows. Coccoliths asymmetrical with edge directed toward flagellar opening extended into a flange or protrusion. Since the heterococcoliths have regular V/R structure it is reasonable to assume this is the diploid phase.

Alternate life-cycle phase: typically motile, bearing quadrate, aragonitic, nannoliths. Nannoliths with conical upper part and cruciform base. Formerly regarded the separate genus Polycrater. This is presumably the hsploid phase.

Heterococcolith structure: As discussed by Kleijne et al. (2002), the proto-coccolith ring is located approximately halfway up the tube. Our LM observations indicate that the upper unit (D-unit of Kleijne et al. 2002) is the V-unit, this forms the distal flange and upper tube. The R-unit forms the inner and outer layers of the lower tube (with slightly different imbrication directions), and in Alisphaera the proximal flange and central area grill. [Young et al. 2003]
NB The colour images of Alisphaera coccospheres in xpl with the gypsum plate show unambiguously that the distal shield is formed of V-unis and the proximal shield of R-units [my interpretation - JRY 2023]


Biology & life-cycles

None of these species have been cultured yet. Observations of combination coccospheres of Alisphaera with Polycrater and of Canistrolithus with Polycrater suggest that these are alternate phases (Cros et al. 2000, Cros & Fortuño 2002, Supraha et al. 2018). By analogy with other taxa, we predict that the heterococcolith phase (Alisphaera/Canistrolithus) is diploid and that the nannolith phase (Polycrater) is haploid.

Search data:
Lith size: 1->3.5µm;
The morphological data given here can be used on the advanced search page. See also these notes

Geological Range:
Last occurrence (top): Extant. Data source: Total of ranges of the species in this database
First occurrence (base): within Quaternary Period (0.00-2.59Ma, base in Gelasian stage). Data source: Total of ranges of species in this database

Plot of occurrence data:


Cros, L. & Fortuño, J. -M. (2002). Atlas of northwestern Mediterranean coccolithophores. Scientia Marina. 66: 1-186. gs

Cros, L., Kleijne, A. & Young, J. R. (2000a). Coccolithophorid diversity in the genus Polycrater and possible relationships with other genera. Journal of Nannoplankton Research. 22(2): 92-92. gs

Heimdal, B. R. (1973). Two new taxa of Recent coccolithophorids. “Meteor” Forschungsergebnisse. 70-75. gs

Kleijne, A., Jordan, R. W., Heimdal, B. R., Samtleben, C., Chamberlain, A. H. L. & Cros, L. (2002). Five new species of the coccolithophorid genus Alisphaera (Haptophyta) with notes on their distribution, coccolith structure and taxonomy. Phycologia. 40(6): 583-601. gs

Manton, I. & Oates, K. (1980). Polycrater galapagensis gen. et sp. nov., a putative coccolithophorid from the Galapagos Islands with an unusual aragonitic periplast. British Phycological Journal. 15: 95-103. gs

Supraha, L., Ljubesic, Z. & Henderiks, J. (2018). Combination coccospheres from the Eastern Adriatic coast: New, verified and possible life-cycle associations. Marine Micropaleontology. 141: 23-30. gs

Young, J. R., Davis, S. A., Bown, P. R. & Mann, S. (1999). Coccolith ultrastructure and biomineralisation. Journal of Structural Biology. 126: 195-215. gs

Young, J. R., Geisen, M., Cros, L., Kleijne, A., Probert, I. & Ostergaard, J. B. (2003). A guide to extant coccolithophore taxonomy. Journal of Nannoplankton Research. S1: 1-132. gs


Alisphaeraceae compiled by Jeremy R. Young, Paul R. Bown, Jacqueline A. Lees viewed: 17-7-2024

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