MICROFAUNAL ANALYSIS OF THE WATTONENSIS BEDS (UPPER BATHONIAN)
OF SOUTH DORSET
M.B. HART, A. DE JONGHE, S.T. GRI MES, B. METCALFE, G.D. PRICE AND C. TEECE
Hart, M.B., De Jonghe, A., Grimes, S.T., Metcalfe, B., Price, G.D. and Teece, C. 2009. Microfaunal analysis of the Wattonensis
Beds (Upper Bathonian) of South Dorset. Geoscience in South-West England, 12, 134-139.
The Wattonensis Beds (Upper Bathonian) are exposed in the low cliffs to the east of Rodden Hive Point (Dorset). This locality is
famous for the abundance of the otolith fauna described in the 1960s. The presence of this otolith fauna is conﬁrmed with new
aterial collected in 2008. Along with the otoliths are a number of statoliths, the aragonitic bones found in the heads of squid-
like cephalopods and almost certainly un-described. Many of the otoliths and statoliths are encrusted with adherent foraminifera,
as are the numerous shell fragments found in these clays.
School of Geography, Earth & Environmental Sciences, University of Plymouth,
Drake Circus, Plymouth, PL4 8AA, U.K.
Keywords: Wattonensis Beds, Bathonian, Dorset, otolith, statolith, foraminifera.
M.B. Hart, A. De Jonghe, S.T. Grimes, B. Metcalfe, G.D. Price and C. Teece
In the geological literature about the Dorset Coast the
Wattonensis Beds of the Upper Bathonian are recorded as
containing one of the most abundant assemblages of Jurassic
otoliths in the U.K. (Stinton and Torrens, 1968; House, 1993;
Cox and Page, 2002). Stinton and Torrens (1968) indicate that,
in their experience, the average sample of clay from the
Bathonian in the U.K. yields 1 otolith per kg of sediment
while the Wattonensis Beds at Rodden Hive Point yielded the
‘extraordinary’ ﬁgure of 10 specimens per kg. The database on
which these judgments were made is, however, somewhat
limited with only the work of Frost (1924, 1926) and the
research of Stinton and Torrens (1968) recording the presence
of otoliths in Jurassic sediments. In our recent work on the
Wootton Bassett Mud Springs (Hart et al., 2006; Price et al.,
2009) we did ﬁnd signiﬁcant numbers of otoliths, although the
mechanism by which they were sampled is atypical (ﬂuid mud
oozing from natural springs). Field samples were, therefore,
collected from the Wattonensis Beds on the shore of the Fleet
Lagoon in South Dorset in order to make a direct comparison
with the work of Stinton and Torrens (1968).
Rodden Hive Point (SY 599821) is located WSW of Langton
Herring on the shore of the Fleet Lagoon (Figure 1). The
section is almost inaccessible, backed by private land and often
rather muddy of access: permission should be sought, for both
visiting and sampling, from the Strangways Estate. About
90-100 m east of the point there are abundant, beautifully
preserved macrofossils littering the foreshore, all of which
appear to have been washed out from the Wattonensis Beds
(Cox and Page, 2002). Samples were collected from the
lumachelle that marks the Elongata Beds and the soft clays that
occur below, and to the west of, the shell bank. This is one of
the best exposures of the Wattonensis Beds which are ~1 m
thick (Figure 2). All the previous authors, beginning with
Stinton and Torrens (1968) describe the shell fragments, and the
otoliths recovered from these clays, as being encrusted with
‘microfaunal bryozoa and serpulids’. As part of our investigation
of the otoliths and the shell material from the succession
we have studied this epifauna and determined that the
overwhelming majority of the taxa are not bryozoans or
serpulids but adherent foraminifera. For comparison, shell
fragments from the mid-Upper Jurassic of Poland
(Pugaczewska, 1970) also carry abundant specimens of
serpulids, bryozoans and foraminifera (including taxa described
Otoliths are the stato-acoustic organs of bony (teleost) ﬁsh
and are often quite well preserved as fossils as they are
composed of calcium carbonate (Stinton and Torrens, 1968;
Lowenstein, 1971; Hart et al., 2006). On each side of the ﬁsh
the ‘labyrinth’ has three otoliths which are located adjacent to
the sensory spots. The largest is the sagitta and this is located
in the sacculus. The second otolith lies in the lagena
(asteriscus) while the third is in the utriculus (lapillus). The
sagitta is the largest and most commonly described in the fossil
record. The side of the sagitta facing the median plane of the
body is the ‘inner side’ and is usually ﬂatter in comparison to
the “outer side” that often shows a range of grooves or other
In their account of Bathonian otoliths, many of which came
from the Wattonensis Beds of Rodden Hive Point, Stinton and
Torrens (1968) created ten new taxa which represent the whole
of the recovered fauna. Many of these taxa have been found
in this current investigation (Figure 3). Along with the otoliths,
in lesser numbers, are a number of similar microfossils that
have not been described previously. These are the statoliths.
Microfaunal analysis of the Wattonensis Beds
Figure 1. Locality map for the exposure of the Wattonensis Beds at Rodden Hive Point near Langton Herring, Dorset.
Statoliths are the small, hard, aragonitic stones which lie in
the ﬂuid-ﬁlled cavities or statocysts within the cartilaginous
skulls of all living and probably all fossil members of the
Coleoidea (Clarke, 1978, 2003). Their aragonitic composition,
colour and size mean that they often co-occur with fossil
otoliths, although they are relatively little known from Jurassic
strata (Clarke et al., 1980a,b; Clarke and Maddock, 1988a,b;
Clarke, 2003). Although we have found a number of statoliths
associated with the otolith fauna in the samples from the
Wattonensis Beds, we cannot – at present – identify the parent
animal. In form and shape, these Bathonian statoliths are
similar in appearance to the only previous illustrations of a
Jurassic statolith (Clarke, 2003, ﬁgures 14, 15). Work on Jurassic
statoliths from the Bathonian and Callovian is on-going.
As indicated above, the majority of previous workers have
indicated that shell fragments and otoliths in the Wattonensis
Beds are covered in abundant bryozoans and serpulids. While
we cannot say that there are no serpulids or bryozoans in the
epifauna, all the specimens that we have seen are adherent
foraminifera. Such an abundance of foraminiferal epifauna is a
peculiar characteristic of the Jurassic clays in the U.K. and
elsewhere in Europe, where the incidence of such faunas
appears to be greater than in the Cretaceous or Tertiary
successions of the same area. In the Cretaceous, where both
calcareous (e.g. Bullopora) and agglutinated (e.g. Placopsilina)
taxa are known, it is probable that one or two specimens may
be found in most micropalaeontological samples. In the
Jurassic, however, it is often found that 90% (or more) of shell
fragments have at least one (or more) adherent taxon present.
In many cases there can be as many as 5 on each small shell
fragment or otolith.
Figure 2. Lithostratigraphy of a part of the Bathonian – Callovian interval within the Geological Conservation Review Sites on the Dorset
M.B. Hart, A. De Jonghe, S.T. Grimes, B. Metcalfe, G.D. Price and C. Teece
Adherent taxa are rarely described in detail (Armstrong and
Brasier, 2005; Murray, 1991, 2006) in texts on the life and
ecology of foraminifera and even reviews of foraminiferal
taphonomy (e.g. Herrero and Canales, 2002) give few details.
The principal publications on such taxa (especially in the
Jurassic) are by Macfadyen (1941), Barnard (1950a,b, 1952,
1953, 1958), Cifelli (1957, 1959, 1960), Gordon (1962, 1965,
1967), Adams (1962), Coleman (1974, 1982), Morris and
Coleman (1989) and Shipp (1978, 1989). Gordon (1965,
text-ﬁgure 11) illustrates three species from the Corallian
succession of southern England, all of which are pertinent to
the following discussion.
The genera represented include Bullopora Quenstedt 1956,
Vinelloidea Canu 1913 (= Nubeculinella Cushman 1930) and
‘Tolypammina Rhumbler 1895’. In a lengthy discussion of
adherent taxa, Adams (1962) has outlined the classiﬁcation
problems surrounding this group and discussed the wall
structure of each of these genera. All of this work was in
advance of scanning electron microscopy and the compilation
of the taxonomic databases now in use (Loeblich and Tappan,
1964, 1987). Barnard (1958) summed up the problem thus: ‘The
chief problems involved in a study of fossil adherent
foraminifera are due to the inadvertent mixing of genera by
some authors. This is perhaps due to the different states of
preservation of the specimens. In most cases it is necessary
to make extensive use of thin sections to determine the wall
In many specimens the initial chambers, or coil, are not
present and this does not allow inspection of one of the most
important taxonomic characters. Specimens of Nubeculinella
often become detached, and occur as ‘normal’ foraminifera in
the residues studied by micropalaeontologists. When this
happens it can be seen that some specimens have a lower
surface to their chambers while others do not. The taxonomic
(or taphonomic) signiﬁcance of this is not known.
The classiﬁcation scheme of Loeblich and Tappan (1964,
1987) is being followed here as the revisions of Kaminski (2004,
2008) are not fully accepted by the community. In the case of
Tolypammina Loeblich and Tappan (1964) is followed as this is
the name by which this taxon is best known in the Jurassic,
rather than the suggested Palaeozoic replacement (Serpenulina
Superfamily AMMODISCACEA Reuss, 1862
Family Ammodiscidae Reuss, 1862
Subfamily Tolypammininae Cushman, 1928
Genus Tolypammina Rhumbler, 1895
Type species Hyperammina vagans Brady, 1879
Diagnosis: A species of Tolypammina(?) with a tubular,
meandrine, ﬁne-grained, unbranching test. The aperture
appears to be a simple, terminal opening.
Discussion: Tolypammina is described by Loeblich and
Tappan (1987) as a Late Palaeozoic form, while the original
deﬁnition of the ‘type species’ as Hyperammina vagans Brady,
1879 is a form from the Recent. It is quite clear that neither a
Recent form or a Palaeozoic taxon provide an appropriate name
for this relatively simple, agglutinated form that has a given
range of Ordovician to Holocene (Kaminski, 2008). This is one
of the rarer taxa in the Jurassic (see Macfadyen, 1941; Barnard,
1950a, 1958; Gordon, 1965) and until we have more material
it is not possible to resolve the question of its full range in
the Jurassic, or the most appropriate name for the genus. No
complete specimens have been found in the Wattonensis Beds.
Microfaunal analysis of the Wattonensis Beds
Figure 3. Scanning electron microscope images of some of the microfauna from the Wattonensis Beds at Rodden Hive Point, Dorset.
A. Leptolepis sp. cf. L. tenuirostris Stinton & Torrens (1968); B. Pholidophorus sp. cf. P. prae-elops Stinton & Torrens (1968); C. Bullopora
rostrata Quenstedt (1857); D. Bullopora rostrata Quenstedt, close-up of stolon-like neck between two chambers seen in centre-left of
photograph C; E. unidentiﬁed otolith; F. unidentiﬁed statolith, probably new taxon. Scale bars all 500 µm except D which is 100 µm.
Superfamily CORNUSPIRACEA Schultze, 1854
Family Nubeculariidae Jones, 1875
Subfamily Nubeculinellinae Avnimelech and Reiss, 1954
Genus Vinelloidea Canu, 1913
Type species Vinelloidea crussolensis Canu, 1913
Vinelloidea ‘bigoti’ Cushman, 1930
Diagnosis: A species of Vinelloidea with an imperforate
‘milky white’ test of attached uniserial chambers that follow a
proloculus, coiled second chamber and uncoiled later growth
stages. There is a simple aperture at the open end of the last
Discussion: This species is better known as Nubeculinella
bigoti but Loeblich and Tappan (1987, p.323) suggest that
Vinelloidea crussolensis – which was initially described as an
adherent bryozoan – may be a senior synonym. The illustrations
provided by Loeblich and Tappan (1987, plate 333) are not
totally convincing and we have retained the speciﬁc name
‘bigoti’ for the present. This species has been fully described
by Adams (1962), who gives the range as ?Lower Lias –
Kimmeridgian. This species has previously been recorded from
M.B. Hart, A. De Jonghe, S.T. Grimes, B. Metcalfe, G.D. Price and C. Teece
the Oxfordian – Kimmeridgian by Shipp (1989) and the
Oxfordian by Gordon (1965). De Jonghe (2009) records it as
abundant on shell fragments in the Phaeinum Subzone
(Callovian) in Wiltshire. It is, overwhelmingly, the most
bundant adherent taxon in the material from the Wattonensis
Beds and the Callovian.
This species frequently detaches from the host surface
during taphonomy (or sample processing) and the 125-250 µm
size fraction often contains large numbers of this species (often
fragmented). This makes any taxonomic counts of genera/
species in Jurassic strata problematic as: (1) How does one
assess fragments (especially as the proloculus is almost never
seen)? (2) How does one assess abundances in different size
ractions as detached specimens are often in the 63-125 µm or
125-250 µm size fractions, while those still attached will be in
the 250-500 µm or >500 µm size fractions.
Superfamily NODOSARIACEA Ehrenberg, 1838
Family Polymorphinidae d’Orbigny, 1839
ubfamily Webbinellinae Rhumbler, 1904
Genus Bullopora Quenstedt, 1856
Type species Bullopora rostrata Quenstedt, 1857
Bullopora rostrata Quenstedt, 1857
Diagnosis: A species of Bullopora with adherent, hemispheri-
cal, tear-drop shaped chambers that may be closely adjacent
or, more normally, separated by stolon-like necks. The wall
is calcareous, perforate with a smooth surface (when well-
Discussion: Gordon (1965, text-ﬁgure 11(20)) illustrates a
form with quite closely oppressed chambers (rather than
connecting necks) as B. globulata. The chamber arrangement
is slightly different to that shown in the type ﬁgure by Barnard
(1950a, p.352, text-ﬁgure 1e). In some of our material the
typical stolon-like necks between the chambers only appear
later in growth, earlier chambers being much more closely
adjacent. Barnard (1958) attempted to describe the evolution
of Bullopora, but our experience indicates that this may be
an overly simplistic view. Even in one sample we see a
great range of variation in chamber shape, length of any
interconnecting necks and nature of any changes in growth
direction. In many of our specimens from the Wattonenesis
Beds and the Oxford Clay Formation some chambers (usually
the earlier ones) taper into the neck quite gradually, while in
the later chambers the more rounded chambers are joined by
necks that are more distinct and often change the direction of
growth of the individual.
There has been relatively little work on the Bathonian
foraminifera in the United Kingdom and the fauna from the
Wattonensis Beds of the Dorset Coast is virtually un-described:
see Cifelli (1959) for a general account of Bathonian
foraminifera. The adherent foraminifera, which are abundant,
have their own particular problems as indicated above. Why
the Middle Jurassic should contain such an extensive fauna of
adherent taxa is also unknown. Colonized shell fragments,
otoliths and statoliths must have been available for a certain
length of time on the sea ﬂoor to allow the settlement of the
protozoa and its subsequent growth. As we know little about
rates of growth and chamber production in adherent
foraminifera, this colonization may just represent one ‘season’
and this might go some way to explaining the frequency,
though not why we do not see this in comparable clays in other
parts of the Mesozoic (e.g. Gault Clay Formation in the
The statoliths and otoliths also require further work but, as
our database for the Middle and Upper Jurassic expands, it is
possible to identify the stratigraphic signiﬁcance of a number of
key taxa. Unfortunately we are never likely to determine from
which organisms they are derived unless a lagerstätte like the
Christian Malford Squid Bed (Wilby et al., 2004, 2006) yields an
animal with the otoliths or statoliths still within the soft tissue
f the parent organism.
The authors thank Malcolm Clarke for advice on Jurassic
statoliths and for sharing some of his data with us. The staff of
the Electron Microscope Centre in the University of Plymouth
are thanked for their assistance. Dr Philip Copestake is thanked
or his thorough review and advice. Dr Christopher Smart is
thanked for preparing the ﬁnal version of Figure 3.
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