History of NEPTUNE
The NEPTUNE database project was initiated in 1990 when a group of biostratigraphers at the ETH Zurich started compiling stratigraphic information of DSDP holes for macroevolutionary studies in the Cenozoic. In its initial stage it was conceived and led by Dave Lazarus in collaboration with some veterans from the DSDP (Jean-Pierre Beckmann, Katharina von Salis, Hans Thierstein) and ETH staff and students (Milena Biolzi, Jörg Bollmann, Heinz Hilbrecht, Cinzia Spencer Cervato). A series of conceptual publications describing NEPTUNE appeared during that time (Lazarus, 1992; Lazarus, 1994), and after 5 years the technical phase resulted in a stratigraphic synthesis for Neogene sediments from 94 DSDP holes (Lazarus et al., 1995). The numerical age models, upon which NEPTUNE was based, followed the chronology of Berggren et al. (1985a and b) and included magnetochronology, calcareous nannofossils, planktonic foraminifera, radiolaria and diatoms. This collection of age models, together with the necessary applications for Macintosh Computers (Age-Depth Plot Program ADP 1.0) is on-line available at the National Geophysical Data Center under the URL http://www.ngdc.noaa.gov/mgg/geology/lazarus.html.
Between 1995 and 1999, the project entered a scientific analysis phase, during which NEPTUNE was exploited for macroevolutionary studies of the oceanic plankton in the Cenozoic. These investigations included topics like species richness, species evenness, longevity, speciation- and extinction-rates, biogeography, migration and studies on synchrony and diachrony of nannofossils, foraminifers, diatoms, radiolaria) in the Cenozoic. This work was done by Cinzia Spencer-Cervato, Bernard Brabec, Heinz Hilbrecht, and Hans Thierstein, who have re-calibrated all existing age models in NEPTUNE to the new integrated chronology, that just had appeared at that time (Berggren et al., 1995). Spencer-Cervato (1999) revised age models, icluded more recent ones from ODP holes and so extended the NEPTUNE database, and described the Neptune database in detail in Paleontologica Electronica under the URL http://palaeo-electronica.org/1999_2/neptune/issue2_99.htm
At about the same time, the Natural History Museum in Basel (NMB), who runs one of the Micropaleontological Reference Centers for the DSDP and ODP (URL for the MRCs: http://iodp.tamu.edu/curation/mrc.html), became interested in using NEPTUNE and the age model collection in order to have an efficient tool to date the vast amount of DSDP and ODP samples in their collections. Collaboration between the ETH group and the NMB (Michael Knappertsbusch), who continued compiling stratigraphic information from the range charts of the Initial and Scientific Reports of the DSDP and ODP. The ongoing work resulted in an expanded collection of numerical age models covering holes of the DSDP and the ODP up to Leg 175, that are all magnetically calibrated against the chronology of Berggren et al. (1995). Next to the basic four planktonic microfossil groups (i.e. calcareous nannofossils, planktic foraminifera, diatoms and radiolaria) other other useful stratigraphical markers were tentatively integrated, such as bolboforma, O-isotopes, Sr-isotopes, new magnetic events, so that more refined age models can be produced. The collaboration between the NMB and the ETH group resulted in the installation of the Neptune server at ETH Zürich, so that the relational database Neptune and the age models were online available to the scientific community.
Since 2004 the Neptune-online server at ETH was no longer supported and was abandoned. At about the same time the relational Neptune database was migrated into the international Chronos initiative, a geoscience cyberinfrastructure to access Earth history databasaes, including stratigraphic tools such as ADP among others, and services, implemented in Chronos' web-based and platform-independent Java environment (see Bohling, 2005).
Original versions of ADP and adapted versions of ADP for PC environment, however, are still in use for numerical age model construction at the Natural History Museum in Basel. These efforts include the construction and updating of the age model collection as needed for datation of samples and for own research on a case by case basis. In order to share these age models with other interested researchers, the updated age model collection were re-installed as a download site at the University in Basel and are occasionally updated.
For a historical review of NEPTUNE, its follow-up products and further development until 2020 please refer to Renaudie, Lazarus and Diver (2020).