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For many years, the benthic foraminifer Melonis pompilioides has been used as an important deep-water index species indicating deposition in abyssal environments. However, uncertainties about the character and importance of its morphological features have caused problems in species identification, which in turn have produced paleobathymetric interpretations that differ from those based on seismic, sedimentary, and stratigraphic data. Incorrect identifications of Melonis pompilioides and the probably automatic assignment of an abyssal environment to sections containing this species have led to controversy and, at times, to serious questions regarding the reliability of this genus for paleoenvironmental interpretations.
An attempt has been made to rectify the problems of identification of Melonis pompilioides and related forms so that micropaleontologists can accurately and consistently identify specimens from the Melonis species complex and can recognize misidentifications by others. Characteristics such as pores, umbilical size, sutures, apertures, and height/width ratios were studied and evaluated.
Other studies have shown that depth of water may not be the single or dominant factor controlling the distribution of this species and that discretion should be used in establishing a paleoenvironmental determination.
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