Dinoflagellate cysts in surface sediment samples of METEOR cruises M20/2, M23/1, M34/1, M34/2, M34/3 and M34/4
To enhance the limited information available about the palaeo-ecological significance of calcareous dinoflagellates, we have studied their lateral distribution in surface sediments of the equatorial and south Atlantic between 13°N and 36°S. Calcareous dinoflagellate cysts appear to be widely distributed throughout the studied area. In the surface sediments, concentrations (cyst per gram dry sediment) of the vegetative stage Thoracosphaera heimii are generally higher than that of the (presumably) calcareous resting cysts. Distribution patterns in surface sediments of Orthopithonella granifera (Fütterer) Keupp and Versteegh, Rhabdothorax spp. Kamptner., Sphaerodinella albatrosiana (Kamptner) Keupp and Versteegh S. albatrosiana praratabulated, Sphaerodinella tuberosa var. 1 (Kamptner) Keupp and Versteegh and S. tuberosa var. 2 and the ratios between these species have been compared with temperature, salinity, density and stratification gradients in the upper water column. Rhabdothorax spp. is characteristically present in sediments of more temperate regions characterized by high seasonality. Dinoflagellates producing these cysts are able to tolerate high nutrient concentrations, and mixing of the water column. S. albatrosiana is abundant in regions characterized by high sea surface temperatures and oligotrophic surface water conditions. In contrast, the distribution of S. tuberosa var. 2 is negatively related to temperature. The other cyst species did not show a characteristic pattern in relation to the studied environmental gradients. The ratio of Sphaerodinella tuberosa var. 2 to Orthopithonella granifera can be used for reconstructing the presence of stratification in the upper 50 m of the water column, whereas the ratios of S. tuberosa var. 2 to Sphaerodinella albatrosiana and of O. granifera to Rhabdothorax spp. might be used for palaeotemperature reconstructions. Calcareous dinoflagellate cysts are abundant in oligotrophic areas and may be useful for the reconstruction of palaeoenvironmental conditions.