Abnormal tests were commonly found in recent benthic foraminiferal assemblages in two fjords of the Kiel Bay, the western Baltic Sea. We assessed 18 different types of abnormalities, which were classified into five groups: chamber, apertural, umbilical, coiling and test abnormalities. In both fjords, test abnormalities are over-represented in Ammonia beccarii and under-represented in Elphidium excavatum subspecies compared to their average proportions in the living assemblages. We found two species-specific abnormality types that occurred only in Ammonia beccarii: a bulla-like chamber covering the umbilicus and spiroconvex tests.

In the outer Kiel and Flensburg Fjords, the highest frequencies of abnormal tests were associated with occasional salt-rich, bottom-water inflows from the Belt Sea. Based on the predominance of megalospheric specimens of living foraminifera, it is suggested that coincidence of salinity changes with a reproduction period might be harmful, especially for young individuals, leading to development of abnormal tests. On the other hand, pollution by heavy metals led to higher percentages of abnormal tests in the inner parts of both fjords. Our data show different relationships between abnormal tests and heavy metals in both fjords due to different hydrographical conditions.

Tests of Ammonia beccarii found in the Gelting Bay, the Flensburg Fjord, showed traces of dissolution and development of double tests. Such specific abnormal tests mirror the peculiar environmental setting characterized by changes in salinity and enhanced sediment redeposition. It is concluded that abnormal tests as an indicator of environmental pollution have to be used cautiously in areas with strong environmental instability.

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