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Keywords:

  • morphological variability;
  • phylogenetic relationships;
  • cyanobacterial diversity

Abstract

The diversity within the genus Nostoc is still controversial and more studies are needed to clarify its heterogeneity. Macroscopic species have been extensively studied and discussed; however, the microscopic forms of the genus, especially those from running waters, are poorly known and likely represented by many more species than currently described. Nostoc isolates from biofilms of two Spanish calcareous rivers were characterized comparing the morphology and life cycle in two culture media with different levels of nutrients and also comparing the 16S rRNA gene sequences. The results showed that trichome shape and cellular dimensions varied considerably depending on the culture media used, whereas the characteristics expressed in the course of the life cycle remained stable for each strain independent of the culture conditions. Molecular phylogenetic analysis confirmed the distinction between the studied strains established on morphological grounds. A balanced approach to the evaluation of diversity of Nostoc in the service of autecological studies requires both genotypic information and the evaluation of stable traits. The results of this study show that 16S rRNA gene sequence similarity serves as an important criterion for characterizing Nostoc strains and is consistent with stable attributes, such as the life cycle.