Planktonic foraminiferal assemblages in two cores from Maryland and New Jersey show evidence for significant changes in surface ocean habitats on the continental shelf during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM). At both sites, significant assemblage shifts occur immediately before the onset of the event. These changes include the appearance of abundant triserial/biserial species as well as rare excursion taxa, which are limited to the interval of the carbon isotope excursion at deep-sea sites. The assemblage shifts signal the development of new habitats immediately prior to the onset of the PETM, likely involving warming, surface ocean acidification, increased stratification and oligotrophy. A sharp increase in diversity at the onset of the event is interpreted as a further increase in stratification and warming, as well as increased water depth and more eutrophic conditions. Finally, we observe variant morphologies of several planktonic foraminifera, which may also signal the response of the assemblage to environmental perturbation.
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