Open Journal of Geology, 2011, 1, 51-55 Published Online October 2011 (
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. OJG
Subterraniphyllum thomasii Elliott, Fossil Calcareous Alga
the Evolutionary Link between Geniculate and
Nongeniculate Coralline Algae: A Hypothesis
Shyam N. Mude1*, P. Kundal2
1Department o f Geology, Fergusson College, Pune, India
2Postgraduate Dep art m e nt of Geology, RTM Nagpur University, Law College Square,
Nagpur, India
E-mail: *
Received June 12, 2011; revised July 27, 2011; accepted September 3, 2011
The Neogene sediments exposed in the Saurashtra region along the southwest coast India, consists of well
preserved diversified coralline algae [1-5].The Subterraniphyllum thomasii Elliott, a fossil Calcareous alga
has been reported from the Dwarka Formation (Lower to Middle Miocene) from Porbandar area, Saurashtara,
Indian subcontinent. This is the first report of Subterraniphyllum thomasii Elliott from Lower-Middle Mio-
cene sediments from the Indian subcontinent; however it has been documented earlier from Late Lutetian
sediments of Kachchh Basin, India. There is a controversy regarding the generic placement of the extinct
species Subterraniphyllum thomasii Elliott as distinct genus of the geniculate coralline algae or not i.e. non-
geniculate coralline algae [6,7]. However, the present specimens of Subterraniphyllum thomasii Elliott ex-
hibit pinpointing features of both geniculate and nongeniculate coralline algae. Finally on the basis of our
observations, we hypothesize that Subterraniphyllum thomasii Elliott may be transitional species and evolu-
tionary link between geniculate and nongeniculate coralline algae.
Keywords: Subterraniphyllum thomasii Elliott, Evolutionary Link, India
1. Introduction
The Cenozoic sediments of the Porbandar area are clas-
sified as Gaj Formation (Lower Miocene), Dwarka For-
mation (Lower-Middle Miocene), Miliolite Formation
(Early Middle-Late Pleistocene) and Chaya Formation
(Late Pleistocene-Late Holocene) [8] (Figure 1). Coral-
line algae are the do minant constituen ts of shallow water
sedimentary rocks throughout the Cenozoic Era [9] and
they have also a potential as paleo-environmental and
paleo-bathymetrical indicators, which are deduced by
comparison of fossil algal assemblage with environ-
mental and geographical distribution of modern algal
associations [10,11]. The paper incorporates the observa-
tions made during the present study; the discussion on
the placement of Subterraniphyllum thomasii Elliott and
proposal of a hypothesis which would throw some light
on the anatomy of this species and possibly help to find
the placement of this species within Corallinales.
2. Methodology
The thin sections of algae bearing rock sample have been
prepared and examined under Lieca-Make Binocular Pe-
trological Microscope. Seventeen sample of Subterrani-
phyllum thomasii Elliott have been observed and analyzed.
3. Classification and Taxonomy
Division: Rhodophyta Wittstein, 1901
Class: Rhodophyceae Rabenhorst, 1863
Order: Corallinales Silva and Johansen, 1986
Family: Corallinaceae Verheij, 1993
Subfamily: Corallinoideae ?
Genus: Subterraniphyllum Elliott
Species: Subterraniphyllum thomasii Elliott
4. Systematic Description
The segments consist of cylindrical intergenicula with
Figure 1. (a) Location Map of India (after Google Map); (b) location Map of India (after Google Map); (c) geological map of
the study area (after Mathur et al., 1988).
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. OJG
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. OJG
medullary and cortical region. Medullary cells are trape-
zoidal in shape. Cell fusion is common in both medullary
and cortical cells (Plate 1, (a) & (b)). All medullary cells
are arranged in irregular tiers. Cortical cells are
sub-rectangular to polygonal radiating towards both the
margins and smaller in size as compared to medullary
cells. Bifurcation is prominent (Plate 1 (a) and (c)) and
dimensions of the various cells are mentioned in Table 1 .
The length of medullary cells ranges from 32 m to 50
m (LMC) except for specimen 509, where 20 m to 28
m and width of these cells varies from 16 m to 24 m
(WMC). The specimen no. 502, 503, 506 and 520, con-
sists of cortical cell, ranging from 10 m to 20 m in
length (LCC) and 8 m to 12 m in width (WCC). The
cortical cells are polygonal and the cell wall material is
almost black to grey (Plate 1, (d) and (e)). One row of
Plate 1. (a) Uniform thickness of the medulla, prominent bifurcation without change in the size/shape of cell at bifurca-
tion/branching; (b) cell fusion in medullary region; (c) prominent bifurcation without change in the size/shape of cell at bi-
furcation/branching; (d) polygonal cortical cells having black to grey coloured outline; (e) polygonal cortical cells having
black to grey coloured outline; (f) one row of rectangular epi thallial cells.
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. OJG
Table 1. Dimensions (m).
501 40-44 16-20 Nil Nil
502 32-40 18-22 10-12 8
503 52 16 16 12
504 40 20 Nil Nil
505 40 24 Nil Nil
506 50 18 12 8
506A 45 18-16 Nil Nil
507 45 20 Nil Nil
508 36-40 16-20 Nil Nil
509 20-28 16-20 Nil Nil
510 40-44 16-20 Nil Nil
511 44 24 Nil Nil
512 36-40 16-20 20 12
513 40 28 Nil Nil
514 36-44 20 Nil Nil
514A 40 18 Nil Nil
514B 44 20-18 Nil Nil
rectangular epithallial cell is ob served in specimen (f) he
conceptacles are not observed in the present specimens;
however, it has been recorded from Macedonia [7] and
India [12].
5. Discussion
The Subterraniphyllum is stratigraphically significant as
it is restricted to Eocene (Late Lutetian) to Early Mio-
cene (Aquitanian) and more frequently in Early Oligo-
cene. It has been earlier recorded from 15 geographic
locations from the world, such as Iran, Iraq, Oman, At-
lantic Ocean, Caribbean Ocean, Italy, Slovenia, Mace-
donia, Crete, Greece, Borneo, Indo-Pacific, Madagascar,
Cuba and India [12]. This is the first record of Subter-
raniphyllum from Lower to Middle Miocene sediment of
the Porbandar area of Southwest coast of the India;
however it has been documented from Late Middle Eo-
cene sediments of the Kachchh basin of the India [12].
The specimens described here are collected from lime-
stones of the Dwarka Formation (Lower to Middle Mio-
cene) of the Porbandar Group at Bhavpara and Srinagar
villages. The specimens exhibit most of the morphologi-
cal features as that of geniculate coralline algae, such as
uniform medulla, arrangement of medullary cell in tires,
but lacking genicula and conceptacles. Our observations
points out that the Subterraniphyllum may be geniculate
coralline algae withou t genicula (as it is not yet rep orted)
but at the branching point there is no significant change
in cell anatomy which shows its affinity towards non-
geniculate coralline algae. Branching pattern in genicu-
late and nongeniculate coralline algae, have been well
discussed [6]. One school of opinions say that Subter-
raniphyllum is a distinct genus of the geniculate corallin e
algae, belonging to subfamily Corallinoideae of family
Corallinaceae [13-16] while other school of opinion
questioned the placement of Subterraniphyllum as dis-
tinct genus of the geniculate coralline algae based no
change in cell pattern or size of cells at bifurcation or
branching which is diagnostic feature of nongeniculate
coralline algae and considered the genus of uncertain
position within the Corallinales [6,7] . There are various
researchers who worked on this species [17-24].
6. Conclusions
The present specimens of the Subterraniphyllum thoma-
sii Elliott are showing characters of both geniculate and
non-geniculate coralline algae. The authors have put
forward a hypothesis which will possibly through some
light on the Subterraniphyllum thomasii Elliott and will
help to find out the answers regarding the controversies
of this genus and species. The Subterraniphyllum thoma-
sii Elliott may be an evolutionary link between nongeni-
culate and geniculate coralline algae. It may be evolved
from Mesophyllum like ancestor or other nongeniculate
coralline algae. In the initial phase of evolution, branch-
ing took place without significant anatomical change at
the point of branching, later; genicula was developed in
geniculate coralline algae other than Subterraniphyllum
thomasii Elliott. Most of the geniculate coralline algae
are originated and flourished after the Cretaceous Period
and surviving in the present day oceans except Subter-
raniphyllum [6]. As the species Subterraniphyllum tho-
masii Elliott, is associated with the transition phase of
transformation of nongeniculate to geniculate coralline
algae, they were not survived for a longer time and most-
ly extinct at the end of Miocene Period.
The present specimen of the Subterraniphyllum shows
anatomical features of geniculate and nongeniculate
coralline algae. Over all morphological features says that
the Subterraniphyllum, is to be kept in the family Coral-
linaceae of the order Corallinales till further rigid con-
clusion and there is a need to look at the species Subter-
raniphyllum thomasii Elliott as an evolutionary link or
transitional species between geniculate and nongenicu-
late coralline algae.
7. Acknowledgements
The first author is greatly appreciative to Principal, Fer-
gusson College, Pune, Maharashtra, India, for constant
encouragement during the preparation of the manuscript
and gratified to the Head, Postgraduate Department of
Geology, Nagpur, Maharashtra, India, for providing
necessary facilities.
8. References
[1] P. Kundal and S. N. Mude, “Geniculate Coralline Algae
from Neogene-Quaternary Sediments in and around
Porbandar, Southwest Coast of India,” Journal Geologi-
cal Society of India, Vol. 74, No.2, 2009, pp. 267-274.
[2] P. Kundal and S. N. Mude, “Nongeniculate Coralline
Algae from the Lower Miocene to Late Holocene Se-
quence of Porbandar Area, Saurashtra, Western India,”
Journal Palaeontological Society India, Vol. 54, No.1,
2009, pp. 73-80.
[3] P. Kundal and S. N. Mude, Amphiroa, A Geniculate
Coralline Alga From Neogene-Quaternary Sediments of
Porbandar Area, Gujarat,” Journal Palaeontological So-
ciety India, Vol. 55, No.1, 2010, pp. 37-44.
[4] S. N. Mude and P. Kundal, “A Note on Rare Structure of
Fossil Coralline Algae from the Southwest Coast of In-
dia,” Journal Geological Society of India, Vol.75, No. 2,
2010, pp. 380-382. doi:10.1007/s12594-010-0033-9
[5] S. N. Mude and P. Kundal, “Additional Coralline algae
from the Lower Miocene to Late Holocene Sediments of
the Porbandar Group, Gujarat”. Journal Geological Soci-
ety India, 2011, In Press.
[6] D. Bassi, W. J. Woelkerling and J. H. Nebelsick, Taxo-
nomic and Biostratigraphic Re-Assessments of Subter-
raniphyllum Elliott (Corallinales, Rhodophyta),” Paleon-
tology, Vol. 43, No.3, 2000, pp. 405-425.
[7] G. Vannucci, D. Basso and P. Fravega, New Observa-
tion on the Anatomy of the Fossil Calcareous Alga Sub-
terraniphyllum Elliott,”. Rivista Italiana di Pleontologia
e Stratigrafia, Vol. 106, No.2, 2000, pp. 237-246.
[8] U. B. Mathur, K. K. Verma and S. Mehra, “Tertiary-
Quaternary Stratigraphy of Porbandar Area, Southern
Saurashtra, Gujarat,” Geological Survey of India, Special
Publication, Vol. 11, No.2, 1988, pp. 333-345.
[9] J. Aquirre, R. Riding and J. C. Braga, “Diversity of
Coralline red Algae: Origination and Extinction and Pat-
tern from the Early Cretaceous to Pleistocene,” Paleobi-
ology. Vol. 26 No. 4, 2000, pp. 651-667.
[10] W. H. Adey and I. G. Macintyre, “Crustose Coralliane
Algae: A Re-Evaluation in the Geological Sciences,”
Bulletin of Geological Society of America. Vol. 84, 1973,
pp. 883-904.
[11] W. H. Adey, “Crustose Coralline Algae as Microenvi-
ronmental Indicator for the Tertiary,” In: J. Gray, A. J.
Boucot, Eds., Historical Biogeography. Oregon State
University Press, Corvallis, 1979, pp. 459-464.
[12] P. Kundal and S. Humane, “On the First Record of Fossil
Calcareous aAlga Subterraniphyllum from Late to Middle
Eocene, Kachchh, Gujarat, India,” Gondwana Geological
Magzine India. Vol. 20, No. 2, 2005, pp. 119-124.
[13] G. F. Elliott, “Subterraniphyllum, a New Tertiary Cal-
careous Alga,” Paleontology, Vol. 1, 1957, pp. 73-75.
[14] J. H. Johnson, “Coralline Algae from the Cretaceous and
Early Tertiary of Greece,” Journal of Palaeontology, Vol.
39, No. 5, 1965, pp. 802-814.
[15] J. P. Beckmann and R. Beckmann, “Calcareous Algae
from the Cretaceous and Tertiary of Cuba,” Shweize-
rische Palaeontology, abhandlungen, Vol. 85, 1966, pp.
[16] V. I. Mastrorilli, “Caratteri Morfologici e Strutturali di un
Esemplare Fertile di Subterraniphyllum Elliott rinvenuto
nell’Oligocene di Ponzone (Piemonte),” Rivista Italiana
di Pleontologia e Stratigrafia, Vol. 74, 1968, pp. 1275-
[17] C. Arias, J. P. Masse and L. Vilas, “Hauterivian Shallow
Marine Calcareous Biogenic Mounds: S.E. Spain,” Pa-
laeogeography Palaeoclimatology Palaeoecology Vol.
26, No. 4, 1995, pp. 651-667.
[18] V. Barbin, “The Eocene-Oligocene Transition in Shal-
low-Water Environment: The Priabonian Stage Type
(Vicentin, northern Italy),” In: I. Premoli-Silva, R. Coc-
cioni and A. Monthnari, Eds., The Eocene-Oligocene
Boundary in the Marche-Umbria Basin (Italy): Interna-
tional Subcommission on Paleogene Stratigraphy, Spe-
cial Publications, Ancona Metting, 1988, pp. 163-171.
[19] A. Blondeau, C. Lorenz, J. Mange and G. Mascle,
“L’Oligocene et le Miocene inferieur en Sicile Centro-
Occidentale,” Bulletin Geological Society of France, Vol.
14, 1972, pp. 137-158.
[20] M. Bonneau, “Les Lambeaux Allochtones du Revers
Septentrional du Massif des Psiloriti (Crete moyenne,
Grece),” Bulletin Geological Society of France, Vol. 12,
No. 12, 1970, pp. 1124-1129.
[21] J. H. Johnson, “Tertiary Red Algae from Borneo,” Bulle-
tin of British Museum (Natural History) Geology, Vol. 2,
1966, pp. 257-280.
[22] M. Lemonie, “Etude D’une Collection D’algues Coralli-
nacees de la Region de Skopje (Yougoslavie),” Revue de
Micropaleontoogie, Vol. 74, 1977, pp. 10-43.
[23] A. N. Thomas, “Facies Variation in the Asmari Lime-
stone,” International Geological Congress, Report of the
18th Session, Great Britain, 1948, Vol. 10, 1952, pp. 74-
[24] R. C. Van Bellen, “The Stratigraphy of the ‘Main Lime-
stone’of the Kirkuk, Bai Hassan and Qarah Chauq Dagh
structure in the north Iraq,” Journal Institute of Petroleum,
Vol. 42, No. 393, 1956, pp. 233-263.
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. OJG