Micropaleontology is the study of fossils that can be
identified only by using a microscope. Most microfossils are the remains of one-celled
animals or plants, such as foraminifera, radiolarian, and diatoms. Micropaleontology also
includes the study of microscopically small multicellular organisms, or body parts or life
stages of larger multicellular plants or animals--especially ones that are valuable
indicators of the age of rock strata or of the environmental conditions under which these
The study of micropaleontology expanded greatly when foraminifera
and other microfossils began to be used to identify strata that might yield petroleum. New
inventions, such as the scanning electron microscope, now permit scientists to study
fossils as small as 0.005 mm (0.0002 in) in diameter; the occurrence of such fossils
provides geologists with information useful in mapping the changing positions of
continents and oceans.
Another exciting new realm of micropaleontology is the search for
the earliest forms of life on Earth. Since 1954, many spherical and filament-shaped
structures, which almost certainly represent remains of primitive algae and bacteria, have
been discovered in Precambrian rocks.
Jones, Daniel J., Introduction to Microfossils (1969).