Investigation of large populations of peteinoid acritarchs recovered from Middle Ordovician strata of the Hälludden and Horns Udde quarry sections (Öland, Sweden) allows for statistical analyses based on morphometric measurements. The results indicate the presence of assemblages with a continuous variability of morphotypes, thus a distinction of different peteinoid acritarch taxa in the sections proved to be impossible. This challenges the currently accepted classification based on a differentiation into the three genera Peteinosphaeridium, Cycloposphaeridium and Liliosphaeridium, and a multitude of different species; individual taxa are essentially arbitrary as morphotypes intergrade. Investigations on modern dinoflagellates show that these can develop variable cyst morphologies depending on environmental factors. By analogy, it can be hypothesised that the different morphologies observed among the peteinoid acritarchs from Öland are cysts produced by only very few phytoplanktic organisms (or even a single species) with high morphological variability.

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