Foraminifera, usually called forams, are nicknamed "armored amoebas." They are "armored" by tests—tiny shells that protect the single-celled creatures.

These protists live in all the world's oceans as drifting plankton or stationary benthic species. Forams are a key part of marine food webs.

Forams have survived for millions of years, successfully adapting to radical climate change in their marine habitat.

Carbon emissions that contribute to global warming, the current period of climate change, are putting a new stress on forams. As more carbon dioxide dissolves in the ocean, the water becomes more acidic. Ocean acidification makes it more difficult for forams to create tests, which they need to survive.

  • Many foram tests are calcium carbonate, the same substance as clam shells, eggshells, and snail shells.
  • Foram tests can also be "agglutinated sediment particles." Agglutinated just means the tests are made of sediment (such as grains of sand) "glued" together by the foram.
  • The largest foram—a species called Syringammina—grows to a whopping 20 centimeters (8 inches). It is the largest single-celled organism in the world.
  • Despite their appearance, forams are more closely related to algae and slime molds than snails or clams.
  • Forams are one of very few creatures that can survive in the Challenger Deep, 10,898 meters (35,756 feet) below the ocean surface. More than 400 forams thrive in this very cold, very dark ocean trench, where the pressure is more than 111 megapascals (16,000 pounds per square inch).
acid
Noun

chemical compound that reacts with a base to form a salt. Acids can corrode some natural materials. Acids have pH levels lower than 7.

adapt
Verb

to adjust to new surroundings or a new situation.

amoeba
Noun

one-celled, shapeless organism (protozoan).

armor
Noun

protective covering.

benthic
Adjective

having to do with the bottom of a deep body of water.

carbon dioxide
Noun

greenhouse gas produced by animals during respiration and used by plants during photosynthesis. Carbon dioxide is also the byproduct of burning fossil fuels.

carbon emission
Noun

carbon compound (such as carbon dioxide) released into the atmosphere, often through human activity such as the burning of fossil fuels such as coal or gas.

cell
Noun

smallest working part of a living organism.

Noun

gradual changes in all the interconnected weather elements on our planet.

dissolve
Verb

to break up or disintegrate.

Noun

all related food chains in an ecosystem. Also called a food cycle.

foraminifera
Plural Noun

(singular: foraminifer.) Type of microscopic organism (protist) that forms a shell and lives in marine or salty conditions.

Noun

increase in the average temperature of the Earth's air and oceans.

Noun

environment where an organism lives throughout the year or for shorter periods of time.

ocean acidification
Noun

decrease in the ocean's pH levels, caused primarily by increased carbon dioxide. Ocean acidification threatens corals and shellfish.

Plural Noun

(singular: plankton) microscopic aquatic organisms.

protist
Noun

type of microscopic organism (not an animal, plant, or fungus). 

radically
Adverb

completely or extremely.

stress
Verb

to strain or put pressure on.

test
Noun

hard, protective shell or covering of some organisms.