A biometrical analysis of the dinoflagellate cyst Lingulodinium machaerophorum [Deflandre, G., Cookson, I.C., 1955. Fossil microplankton from Australia late Mesozoic and Tertiary sediments. Australian journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 6: 242-313.] Wall, 1967 in 144 globally distributed surface sediment samples revealed that the average process length is related to summer salinity and temperature at a water depth of 30 m by the equation (salinity/temperature) = (0.078*average process length + 0.534) with R-2=0.69. This relationship can be used to reconstruct palaeosalinities, albeit with caution. The particular ecological window can be associated with known distributions of the corresponding motile stage Lingulodinium polyedrum (Stein) Dodge, 1989. Confocal laser microscopy showed that the average process length is positively related to the average distance between process bases (R-2=0.78), and negatively related to the number of processes (R-2=0.65). These results document the existence of two end members in cyst formation: one with many short, densely distributed processes and one with a few, long, widely spaced processes. which can be respectively related to low and high salinity/temperature ratios. Obstruction during formation of the Cysts Causes anomalous distributions of the processes. From a biological perspective, processes function to facilitate sinking of the cysts through clustering. (c) 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.