Characterization of microbialite-forming cyanobacteria in a tropical lagoon: Tikehau Atoll, Tuamotu, French Polynesia

Raeid M M Abed, Stjepko Golubic, Ferran Garcia-Pichel, Gilbert F. Camoin, Sophie Sprachta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Natural populations of benthic cyanobacteria in the lagoon of Tikehau Atoll in French Polynesia were studied using a polyphasic approach that combined field observations, LM, culturing, and molecular sequencing. The approach assessed their phenotypic (morphotypic and ecological) and genotypic diversity. Partial sequences (approximately 450 bp long) of the PCR-amplified 16S rRNA gene were obtained from both natural and cultured populations using cyanobacteria-specific primers. The sequences obtained clustered into six separate phylogenetic clusters in relation to the complete set of 16S rRNA sequences available in public databases. Phylogenetic clustering correlated in many cases with some morphological characteristics. For example, Spirulina subsalsa could be identified to the morphospecies level using both molecular and microscopic approaches. Morphotypes identified as Symploca hydnoides (Kütz. ex Gomont) TK22, Phormidium sp. TK1, and P. laysanense (Lemmerman) TK14 formed a distinct cluster. The morphogenus Hydrocoleum (Blennothrix) clustered interestingly close to the morphologically similar, but planktonic, marine cyanobacterium Trichodesmium, suggesting a relationship. Other sequences belonging to morphotaxa with very narrow trichomes were found to be polyphyletic. Enrichment cultures, with inoculum obtained from field populations, were followed over a period of 18 months. Dominance in all cultures shifted over time in favor of a set of cyanobacterial strains with narrow trichomes, which were phenotypically and phylogenetically different from natural populations dominating the original samples. Sequences from strains enriched by cultivation clustered into two well-defined phylogenetic groups, possibly identifying new taxa. These clusters may represent a niche of opportunistic species, evolved to exploit short-term nutrient spikes in the environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)862-873
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Phycology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2003


  • 16s rRNA
  • Atoll
  • Benthos
  • Colony formation
  • Cyanobacteria
  • DGGE
  • Microbialites
  • Organosedimentary structures
  • PCR
  • Phylogeny
  • Stromatolites
  • Tropical lagoon

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Plant Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Characterization of microbialite-forming cyanobacteria in a tropical lagoon: Tikehau Atoll, Tuamotu, French Polynesia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this