Atlas of Cyanobacteria

Boring But Important

I would like to give especial thanks to Drs. Geoffrey and Robin Matthews, Professors Emeritus, Western Washington University for designing and setting up this website.

All photos are taken from freshly collected, live specimens by Gerald Oemig (except where captioned).

I would also like to thank Dr. R. Matthews, Mr. Michael Kausch of Fordham University, and Norm Trigoboff of Ithaca NY for their help and photographic contributions to this edition of the Atlas. THANK YOU!

Cyanobacterial taxonomy is notoriously complex...and imprecise. Ideally, we would like a simple and clear dichotomous key that would consistently and reliably lead us to a consistent conclusion. Unfortunately, the paucity of distinctive phenotypic characters in even these most complex of bacteria renders that ideal impossible. This is not the place to discuss the complexities of cyanobacterial genetics and speciation, however I will admit to the tyro cyano taxonomists of the world that even professionals have trouble with the overlapping of species descriptions in the few keys available. Furthermore, all the foundational keys and descriptions are European in orientation and the general consensus is that only 10%-15% of cyanobacterial species may be cosmopolitan. With that in mind I have generally only included genera and species which have enough distinctive characteristics as to be confidently named. I tend to bypass many of the unicellular forms and the Leptolyngbyas etc. as being too difficult to be confident of my determinations. Generally, I include several photos for each organism to show what you will see through your scope. I try to illustrate the important diacritical features but balance this with trying to illustrate the complexities of the taxonomy, the similarities between species, and the true beauty of the blue-greens. Remember! You cannot identify a cyanobacterium via a photograph! All names have been thoroughly researched in numerous texts and journals and I believe them to be correct—phenotypically and ecologically, if not genetically. If you do spot a mistake, have comments or suggestions, or have an interesting little blue-green you’d like to put a name to, kindly contact me. I WILL respond.

Finally, this atlas is an ongoing project and will grow and change over time. So, tune in again. Thank you.


Primary Sources

Geitler, L. (1932). Cyanophyceae. Akademische Verlagsgesellschaft m.b.H. Leipzig.

Komárek, J. and K. Anagnostidis (2008 unaltered reprint of 1998 text). Cyanoprokaryota 1. Chroococcales. Spektrum Akademischer Verlag. Heidelberg.

Komárek, J. and K. Anagnostidis (2008 unaltered reprint of 2005 text). Cyanoprokaryota 2. Oscillatoriales. Spektrum Akademischer Verlag. Heidelberg.

Komárek, J. (2013). Cyanoprokaryota 3. Heterocystous Genera. Springer Spektrum. Heidelberg.

Komárek, J. (2014). Taxonomic classification of cyanoprokaryotes 2014 using a polyphasic approach. Preslia 86: 295-335.

And a couple of good species articles, conveniently in the same journal.

Castenholz and Norris (2005). Revisionary concepts in the Cyanobacteria and their applications. Algological Studies 117: 53-69.

Johansen, J. R. & D. A. Casamatta, (2005). Recognizing cyanobacterial diversity through adoption of a new species paradigm. Algological Studies 117: 71–93.