The Foraminifera Sculpture Park in Guangzhou Province officially opened in December 2009. Marine geologist Bilal Haq, of the National Science Foundation, got the idea for the sculpture park a decade ago after seeing palm-sized models of foraminifera in the lab of marine biologist Zheng Shouyi at the Institute of Oceanology in Qingdao, China. Zheng persuaded local authorities to pursue the idea.
Foraminifera are an ancient form of life, dating back to the Cambrian Period, 540-480 Million years ago. Meaning “Hole Bearers” the Foraminifera are small, single celled, shelled marine organisms. Despite being single celled, some of the designs of the shells of Foraminifera became very complex with multiple chambers and grew relativly large for single celled creatures, growing to some 19cm. These creatures once ruled the world, filling the seas, and developed into an astonishing variety of lifeforms – some 275,000 species are recognized – in what is known as the “Cambrian explosion.”
It was this diversity of form that inspired marine geologist Bilal Haq, and marine biologist Zheng Shouyi to help get the Chinese sculpture park built. Today there are 114 sculptures in the park all carved out of marble, granite, and sandstone and all inspired by and representing the varied forms of the Foraminifera. Forams from across the world, from 5 oceans and countries including Russia, America, Cuba, France, Italy, New Zealand, and CHina itself. Six new forams were recently discovered in Sanxiang. No doubt it is only a matter of time before they are incorporated into the park.
- Science magazine, 18 Dec 2009