The PaleoNet Forum: A Monthly Electronic Journal September, 1995: Volume 1, Issue 2 The Gulf of Mexico Taxonomic Equivalency Project Garry Jones Louisiana/Gulf Group Biostratigrapher, UNOCAL Corporation, Lafayette, Louisiana, USA E:mail:

The PaleoNet Forum: An Irregular Electronic Journal
October, 1995: Volume 1, Issue 2

The Gulf Coast Taxonomic Equivalency Project

Gary Jones

Gulf of Mexico biostratigraphers have hurt their utility as geologic problem solvers by not fully documenting species concepts for the myriad of foraminiferal and nannofossil names introduced by oil companies and contractors over the past several decades. Lack of proper species documentation has led, or could lead to, the following results.


  1. Difficulty at best, impossibility at worst, in merging paleontological data from multiple sources into meaningful correlation diagrams, structure contour and isopach maps, and paleobathymetric reconstructions.
  2. Many species not being assigned their proper latin binomial, thereby hindering or precluding the ability to compare the stratigraphic range and environmental tolerances of the same species in different basins.
  3. Non-paleontologists obtaining a tarnished image of the usefulness of paleontological data (and paleontologists!).
  4. The possibility that species concepts will retire or die with the paleontologists who defined them.

To rectify this situation, the Industry Biostratigraphical Coordinators Group (IBCG; formerly known as the Industry Paleo Managers' Group) is assisting the GCS-SEPM Ad Hoc Committee in bringing together geoscientists with a diversity of professional backgrounds and with key knowledge about Gulf of Mexico biostratigraphy from oil companies, professional consultants, government (MMS, State Surveys), academic institutions, and museums to help catalyze and guide the Gulf of Mexico Taxonomic Equivalency Project. Ed Picou (former Gulf of Mexico biostratigrapher with Shell, currently an independent consultant) chairs this effort whose goal is to provide a new, state of the art, biostratigraphy for the Gulf of Mexico and stabilize the systematic concepts of key microfossil markers.

At a recent IBCG meeting representatives from Amoco, Conoco, BP, Pennzoil, Shell, Unocal converted their in-house biostratigraphic zonations for the Gulf of Mexico into a common Excel spreadsheet format and plotted poster-sized, hard-copy printouts of each. These zonations were posted side-by-side and participants were given an opportunity to informally discuss similarities/differences and identify species/species groups needing taxonomic clarification. This relatively simple exercise was one of the first times stratigraphers from the major oil companies were allowed to "compare notes" and signals a new spirit of cooperation within the industrial sector of paleontological and stratigraphic research. At the end of the meeting IBCG members drafted and forwarded to Ed Picou the following recommendations for successful completion of the Taxonomic Equivalency Project. Microfossil species/taxa identified by IBCG members as needing taxonomic revision included (listed in no particular order).


To help sort out the taxonomic confusion surrounding species concepts, the participating members of the IBCG have agreed to loan company type specimens to the Ad Hoc Committee whenever possible and recommended that Committee members meet at as many geological functions as possible to discuss these taxonomic problems "over the microscope" (GCS-SEPM, AAPG, GSA, NOGS, etc.). Publication of the resultant composite biostratigraphic zonation for the Gulf of Mexico should be generic yet accurate enough so that everyone will want to use it, including.


In addition, each species on the chart should referenced to a readily-accessible, published figure that the Committee decides is representative of the species concept or included in a new catalogue of systematic illustrations that will be created from type specimens and/or illustrations using digital imaging technology such as the Natural History Museum's PalaeoVision system. James Ogg (Professor of Geology, Purdue University) is recommended to place the various biostratigraphic zonations for the Gulf of Mexico against the Cenozoic geochronologic framework of Berggren et al., 1995 in Excel spreadsheet format with IBCG members donating the Excel spreadsheets containing the various oil company zonations to the Committee.

On behalf of the IBCG and Ed Picou of the SEPM Ad Hoc Committee on Taxonomic Equivalency, I made a presentation to the Houston area "Paleo Lunch Bunch" hosted by Chevron. In attendance were about 40 oil company, contractor, and university paleontologists. I reviewed the recommendations of the IBCG to the SEPM Ad Hoc Committee. Strong support for the Project was voiced among the attendees and several suggestions for the final published product were noted and forwarded to Ed Picou.

A hard copy of the overheads used in the Lunch Bunch are available by contacting me via e-mail or phone at 318-295-6438 (USA). The next IBCG meeting, currently scheduled for September 19, 1995 at Chevron Towers in Houston, will be the official kickoff meeting of the SEPM Ad Hoc Committee, to include Ed Picou and his Committee members and invited consulting, government, academic, and museum paleontologists; the purpose of the meeting will be to outline the Committee's goals, solicit the participation of key consultants and other organizations, and create a specific action plan for achieving those goals. It is hoped that this project will set a new standard for industry participation in pubcially-accessible paleontological and stratigraphic research and that it will have a positive and long-lasting influence on geological research in the Gulf of Mexico.