What are Cyanobacteria & Cyanotoxins?
Described as the most successful group of microorganisms on earth, Cyanobacteria (commonly known as blue-green algae) are amongst our oldest living relatives and are responsible for modern life on earth and it’s origins⁽¹⁾
. Appearing around 2.3-2.9 billion years ago, cyanobacteria play a vital role in our ecosystems; as the first producers of oxygen, fixing nitrogen for plant and soil function, and providing microscopic forage for both aquatic and terrestrial systems⁽²⁾
. Contrary to their common name, ‘blue-green algae’ are neither always blue, nor are they true algae. Although they share a similar visual appearance, cyanobacteria and algae have significantly different cell structures, and therefore belong to separate domains. The majority of cyanobacteria appear as blue-green due to the abundance of the blue pigment, phycocyanin which is used as a photosynthetic aid, but certain species appear brown, red or pink due to a higher abundance of the pigment phycoerythrin ⁽⁴⁾
. For example, the Red Sea gets its name from occasional appearances of Trichodesmium erythraeum ⁽⁵⁾
, and African flamingos get their pink colour from eating Arthrospira platensis ⁽⁶⁾.