Studies of benthic Foraminifera typically rely on the morphological identification of dried specimens. This approach can introduce sampling bias against small, delicate, or morphologically ambiguous forms. To overcome this limitation, we extracted total DNA from sediment followed by PCR using group- and species-specific primers. Phylogenetic analyses revealed that approximately ninety percent of the PCR products represented previously undescribed sequence types that group with undersampled members of the allogromiid Foraminifera. We also used a modification of this technique to track individual species in sediment fractions too fine for normal morphological identification, and to confirm species placement of morphologically ambiguous foraminiferans. We were able to identify the DNA of several large foraminiferal species in fine fractions in a seasonally-dependent manner, indicating that in some seasons the majority of the standing stock of these species exists as gametes/juveniles. The approach outlined here represents a powerful strategy for exploring the total diversity of benthic foraminiferal communities.
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