Palaeontology and biostratigraphy - core expertise

Biostratigraphy image


BGS has core expertise in macropalaeontology, micropalaeontology and palynology.


This is the most familiar face of palaeontology, and has been at the heart of BGS work almost since the organisation's inception more than 170 years ago. Over this time the BGS has amassed a comprehensive stratigraphical collection of reference material representing all the major invertebrate fossil groups (sponges, corals, brachiopods, graptolites, trilobites, bivalves, gastropods, ammonoids, belemnites, crinoids and echinoids), as well as some nationally important vertebrate collections. Much of this material comes from localities that are no longer available for study

Current work on Palaeozoic successions includes the development of a biostratigraphical framework for Middle Devonian strata of the Orcadian Basin of north-east Scotland (Caithness, East Sutherland and Orkney) based on fossil fish, and on determining the nature of palaeoecological and palaeogeographical changes in the Carboniferous of the Midland Valley of Scotland, within beds and across basins, using statistical analysis of BGS Carboniferous macrofossil collections. Both projects are in collaboration with universities and external scientists.

Various fossils

Various fossils2

In the Mesozoic, current work concentrates on the high resolution stratigraphy of the Cretaceous, particularly the Late Cretaceous Chalk Group. Work on the Chalk combines biostratigraphical, lithostratigraphical and borehole geophysical log data to refine correlations and develop sophisticated three-dimensional digital geological models.

Chalk Cutting

Micropalaeontology and palynology


The principal palynological groups analysed are acritarchs, dinoflagellate cysts, spores, pollen and chitinozoa. Micropalaeontological groups include foraminifera, ostracods, conodonts and, occasionally, radiolaria, diatoms and calcareous algae.

Quantitative and semi-quantitative, high precision biostratigraphical analyses have applications in, for example, geological mapping, hydrocarbon exploration and civil engineering, as well as palaeoenvironmental, palaeogeographical and palaeoclimate modelling on local, regional and global scales. Palynofacies/detrital kerogen analysis for palaeogeographical/palaeoecological reconstructions and maturation studies is also carried out.

Recent micropalaeontological and palynological projects include:

  • Holocene lacustrine ostracoda from Armenia
  • Pleistocene—Holocene ecostratigraphy (palynology and calcareous micropalaeontology) of western Scotland
  • Palaeogene—Neogene palynomorph and foraminiferal biostratigraphy from the Rockall Trough area and Northern North Sea
  • foraminiferal biostratigraphy of Permian to Tertiary successions in the Middle East
  • Late Cretaceous and Palaeogene foraminifera from Ecuador
  • Cretaceous palynomorphs from the Antarctic Peninsula
  • high resolution foraminiferal biostratigraphy of the Chalk of England and the Southern North Sea
  • Mesozoic microfaunas and palynomorphs from the North Sea Basin
  • Mesozoic palynomorphs of Australia
  • biostratigraphical distribution of Jurassic palynomorphs from Russia
  • biostratigraphical applications of Late Jurassic foraminifera and ostracods from the Russian Platform
  • biostratigraphical & palaeoecological applications of Permian spores from the Middle East
  • Devonian conodonts from south-west England
  • Carboniferous conodonts from northern England
  • Carboniferous ostracods from southern Scotland
  • Ordovician conodonts from clasts in ?Devonian conglomerates in south-central Scotland
  • Cambro-Ordovician conodonts from north-west Scotland (in collaboration with University of Birmingham)
  • the application of Ordovician acritarchs in dating and correlating successions in Britain and overseas.