• Arthrospira ;
  • cell;
  • environment;
  • filament;
  • phytoplankton morphology;
  • saline lakes;
  • Spirulina


The filamentous spirally coiled cyanoprokaryote Arthrospira fusiformis is found in extremely high densities in tropical soda lakes acting as driving force of the food web. We studied pronounced temporal morphological changes of Arthrospira in Kenyan soda lakes, Nakuru and Bogoria, and identified underlying key factors. Cell (diameter and height) and filament (height of coil, coil diameter, and number) dimensions were measured from weekly samples collected over a period of 16 months. In both lakes, medium-sized cells and large, widely coiled filaments prevailed most. Percentage of large, widely coiled filaments was promoted by elevated levels of soluble reactive phosphorus, wind speed, temperature and conductivity and the opposite for small filaments. Large, narrow-coiled filaments were associated with an increase in mainly Arthrospira-grazing zooplankton and cyanophage infections. Widely coiled spirals were promoted by increased turbulences. Based on fluorescence measurements, we found widely coiled filaments representing high vitality. From this study we were able to demonstrate for the first time morphological patterns of Arthrospira in nature. Arthrospira morphotypes are suitable for indicating the biological status in soda lakes as they are subjective and therefore reflective of what is happening in its habitat. Additionally, this outcome might be also of interest for commercial ′Spirulina′ farms in enhancing high-quality production.