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Keywords:

  • biofuels;
  • Botryococcus terribilis;
  • morphology;
  • taxonomy;
  • ultrastructure

The genus Botryococcus comprises a group of cosmopolitan species of freshwater colonial green algae, some of which synthesize and accumulate an unusually high level (15–76%) of liquid hydrocarbons. This characteristic suggests the possibility of exploiting species from this group as renewable sources for jet fuel. An oil-rich strain of Botryococcus (Trebouxiophyceae) was isolated from a freshwater pond in the state of Bahia, Brazil, and is presently maintained under standard conditions at the Culture Collection of the Institute of Biology, Federal University of Bahia. The taxonomic classification of the species was based on light microscopy (LM); and TEM and SEM were used to better characterize its features, which have never before been described at this level. The LM characterization included the size of the colonies (35.7–157 μm) and cells (8–10 × 5–9 μm) and their connection in sub-colonies by mucilaginous strands, as well as the presence of mucilaginous processes on the periphery of some of the colonies, with most of the cells included inside the colony. Reproduction occurred through divisions into two to four autospores. These features characterized the species as Botryococcus terribilis Komárek and Marvan. The TEM study showed, in addition to the presence of starch grains, pyrenoids that are penetrated by thick thylakoids. The pyrenoid bodies appear as electron-dense protein inclusions located in the chloroplast and surrounded by a starch sheath. These structures, which contain most if not all of the Ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase oxygenase in several algal species that have been studied closely, are newly discovered for this species.