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Centre for Earth and Environmental Science Research

Upper Cretaceous dinoflagellate cysts: relationships to sequence stratigraphy, sea-level change and water depth

Executive Summary
ResearchersMr John Lignum (PhD Student): CEESR
Dr Ian Jarvis (Director of Studies): CEESR
Dr Martin Pearce (Supervisor): Statoil Norway
Dr Martin Waller (Supervisor): CEESR
Dr Andrew Swan (Supervisor): Kingston University
Funding Body/SourceKingston University and Statoil
DurationSeptember 2004 - ongoing
Project SummaryThis project aims to develop models that quantify sea-level change and water depth based on spatial and temporal assemblage variation in dinoflagellate cysts. The focus is on the Cenomanian Stage (100 - 94 Ma) of the Late Cretaceous.


Dinoflagellates are predominantly marine organisms, characterized by having two flagellae and a cellulose covering. They display characteristics of both plants (algae) and animals (protozoans), and form one of the chief components of modern marine plankton. Some dinoflagellates develop a hard resistant organic-wall (cyst) as part of a resting stage in their life cycle. These "dinocysts" have a high preservation potential in sediments, and provide a continuous geological record back to at least the mid-Triassic, with peak species diversity during the Late Cretaceous.

Late Cretaceous dinocysts

The Late Cretaceous was characterised by the highest eustatic sea-levels of the last 250 Myr, with sea levels estimated to be 200-300 m above those of the present day. Several episodes of rapid sea-level rise and fall occurred, with highest sea-levels being attained during the early Turonian climatic optimum. The Late Cretaceous provides a unique opportunity to examine relationships between dinoflagellate cysts and sea-level change.


Spiniferites ramosus ramosus Hystrichosphaeridium pulchrum Pterodinium cingulatum cingulatum


Fazeli, H., Coningham, R.A.E., Young, R.L., Gillmore, G.K., Maghsoudi M. & Raza, H. 2007. Socio-Economic transformations in the Tehran Plain: Final season of settlement survey and excavations at Tepe Pardis. Iran 45: 267-286.

Gillmore, G.K., Coningham, R.A.E., et al. 2007. Holocene sediments of the Tehran Plain: sedimentation and archaeological site visibility. In Wilson, L., Dickinson, P., Jeandron, J. (Eds.) Reconstructing Human-Landscape Interactions. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, Ch. 3, pp.37-64.

Coningham, R.A.E., Fazeli, H., Young, R.L., Gillmore, G.K., Karimian, H., Maghsoudi, M., Donahue, R.E. & Batt, C.M. 2006. Socio-Economic transformations: Settlement survey in the Tehran Plain and Excavations at Tepe Pardis. Iran 44: 33-62.

Fazeli H., Coningham R.A.E. & Batt C.M. 2004. Cheshmeh-Ali Revisited: Towards an Absolute Dating of the Late Neolithic and Chalcolithic of Iran's Tehran Plain. Iran 42: 13-23.

Coningham R.A.E., Fazeli H., Young R.L. & Donahue R.E. 2004. Location, Location, Location: A Pilot Study of the Tehran Plain. Iran 42: 1-12.

Fazeli H., Coningham R.A.E. & Pollard A.M. 2001. Chemical Characteristics of Late Neolithic and Chalcolithic Pottery from the Tehran Plain. Iran 39: 55-71.

Conference presentations.

Coningham, R.A.E., Fazeli, H., Gillmore, G. 2007. Complexity on the margin: Environmental Change and Socio-Economic Transformation in the Tehran Plain. Evolving Societies: A British Academy Showcase of UK overseas research into community, identity and environment. The Barbican Centre, London. 15th November 2007.

Gillmore, G.K., Coningham, R.A.E., Young, R., Fazeli, H., Maghsoudi, M. 2007. The antiquity of artificial water management in Iran: a Late Neolithic channel from the Tehran Plain, Iran. 9th Workshop of the British Institute of Persian Studies, Durham University, UK, 14-15th December 2007.

Gillmore, G.K., Coningham, R.A.E., Young, R., Fazeli, H., Donahue, R. 2007. Irrigation on the Tehran Plain, Iran: Tepe Pardis - the site of a possible Neolithic irrigation feature? Developing International Geoarchaeology 2007, University of Cambridge, UK, 19th-21st April 2007.

Gillmore, G.K. 2006. Geoarchaeology and the Tehran Plain: evidence of ancient irrigation - Tepe Pardis. 8th Workshop of the British Institute of Persian Studies, School of African and Oriental Studies, University of London, UK, 1st-2nd December 2006.

Gillmore, G.K. 2006. What is Geoarchaeology? A case study from the Tehran Plain, Iran. An example of the significance of alluvial fan deposition and archaeological site visibility. The British Institute of Persian Studies Workshop, Institute of Archaeology, University of Tehran, Iran, 14th April 2006.

Gillmore, G.K., et al. 2005. Holocene sediments of the Tehran Plain: sedimentation and archaeological site visibility. Developing International Geoarchaeology 2005, St John, New Brunswick, Canada, 21st-23rd October 2005.

Gillmore, G.K., Coningham, R.A.E., Donahue, R., Fazeli, H., Young, R. 2005. Irrigation on the Tehran Plain: Tepe Pardis - a possible Neolithic irrigation feature? European Association of Archaeologists, 11th Annual Meeting, Cork, 5-11th September 2005.

Gillmore, G.K., Fazeli, H., Coningham, R.A.E, Donahue, R., Young, R. 2005. Geoarchaeology: the potential role of geomorphology in the archaeology of Southern Asia. European Association of South Asian Archaeology, The British Museum, London, 4-8th July 2005.

Conningham R. & Gillmore, G.K. 2004. Socio-Economic transformations on the plain of Tehran, Iran. British Institute of Persian Studies Workshop, Wadham College, University of Oxford, UK, 11-12th September 2004.

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