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Abstract

Larger foraminifera occur today in marine infra-littoral environments whose mean annual temperature (TAM) is at least 22-23 °C, and are situated in a circum-equatorial belt between latitudes 30° North and 30° South. Throughout the Middle Eocene (around 40 Ma), the carbonate platform, which lay along the whole length of the Atlantic front of Europe, supported diverse populations of larger foraminifera as far north as the Paris and Hampshire basins, which at that time were situated at latitude 42° North. Larger foraminifera only disappear around 45° North. During the same period, in the carbonate platform which borders the African and Madagascan shores, larger foraminifera were well diversified as far south as palaeolatitude 35° South, before diminishing and finally disappearing near 45° South. Thus in the Middle Eocene, the equatorial belt of near-surface warm waters lay between parallels 45° North and 45° South, and was therefore somewhat extended compared to the present day. In fact, it covered a distance of 1500 km, North to South. The global latitudinal thermal gradient, as a consequence, was very much reduced (in the order of 15-20 °C), and only contained three main climatic zones: an expanded equatorial belt (TAM > +22/23 °C), flanked by two circumpolar caps with a temperate climate.

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