The diversity and distribution of modern benthic foraminifera has been extensively studied in order to aid the paleoecological interpretation of their fossil record. Traditionally, foraminiferal species are identified based on morphological characters of their organic, agglutinated or calcareous tests. Recently, however, new molecular techniques based on analysis of DNA sequences have been introduced to study the genetic variation in foraminifera. Although the number of species for which DNA sequence data exist is still very limited, it appears that morphology-based studies largely underestimated foraminiferal diversity. Here, we present two examples of the use of DNA sequences to examine the diversity of benthic foraminifera. The first case deals with molecular and morphological variations in the well-known and common calcareous genus Ammonia. The second case presents molecular diversity in the poorly documented group of monothalamous (single-chambered) foraminifera. Both examples perfectly illustrate high cryptic diversity revealed in almost all molecular studies. Molecular results also confirm that the majority of foraminiferal species have a restricted geographic distribution and that globally distributed species are rare. This is in opposition to the theory that biogeography has no impact on the diversity of small-sized eukaryotes. At least in the case of foraminifera, size does not seem to have a main impact on dispersal capacities. However, the factors responsible for the dispersal of foraminiferal species and the extension of their geographic ranges remain largely unknown.
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