The science of Micropalaeontology studies the microscopic remains of animals, plants and protists belonging to biological groups mostly of simple organisation and less than 1mm in size. These organisms were extraordinarily abundant and diverse in the past and continue to be so in modern environments, in many cases forming the primary elements in marine, lacustrine and terrestrial organic productivity cycles and food chains. The production of these organisms is a basic component of the global biogeochemical system, intimately linked to present and past environmental change. In this way microfossils are keys to Palaeoceanography and Palaeoclimatology and to understanding the evolution of the biosphere.
Our ability to use the pattern of evolution of microfossil groups during the last 400 million years as a means of ascribing relative ages to sedimentary rocks and reconstructing their environmental histories is of great value for understanding global sedimentary geology, and has especially important applications, for example, in the hydrocarbon industry.