[ fə-răm′ə-nĭf′ər-ən ]
Any of various chiefly marine protozoans of the order Foraminiferida or Foraminifera, having a body enclosed by a shell called a test and making up an important constituent of plankton. Perforations in a foraminiferan's test allow the protrusion of numerous long extensions (pseudopods), which form a net used to trap food. The tests of foraminiferans grow throughout the organism's life, and can exceed 5 cm (2 inches) in diameter. The tests of dead organisms form ooze found on the ocean floor. Extinct foraminiferans are important index fossils.
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The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.