Understanding the winning strategies used by the bloom-forming cyanobacterium Cylindrospermopsis raciborskii

Michele A. Burford, John Beardall, Anusuya Willis, Philip T. Orr, Valeria F. Magalhaes, Luciana M. Rangel, Sandra M.F.O.E. Azevedo, Brett A. Neilan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

101 Citations (Scopus)


The cyanobacterium Cylindrospermopsis raciborskii is a widespread species increasingly being recorded in freshwater systems around the world. It is of particular concern because strains in some geographic areas are capable of producing toxins with implications for human and animal health. Studies of this species have increased rapidly in the last two decades, especially in the southern hemisphere where toxic strains are prevalent. A clearer picture is emerging of the strategies adopted by this species to bloom and out-compete other species. This species has a high level of flexibility with respect to light and nutrients, with higher temperatures and carbon dioxide also promoting growth. There are two types of toxins produced by C. raciborskii: cylindrospermopsins (CYNs) and saxitoxins (STXs). The toxins CYNs are constitutively produced irrespective of environmental conditions and the ecological or physiological role is unclear, while STXs appear to serve as protection against high salinity and/or water hardness. It is also apparent that strains of this species can vary substantially in their physiological responses to environmental conditions, including CYNs production, and this may explain discrepancies in findings from studies in different geographical areas. The combination of a flexible strategy with respect to environmental conditions, and variability in strain response makes it a challenging species to manage. Our ability to improve bloom prediction will rely on a more detailed understanding of the complex physiology of this species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)44-53
Number of pages10
JournalHarmful Algae
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2016


  • Carbon dioxide
  • Cylindrospermopsin
  • Light
  • Nutrients
  • Phytoplankton
  • Saxitoxin

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