Taxonomic evaluation of the cyanobacterial microflora from alkaline marshes of northern Belize. 1. Phenotypic diversity of coccoid morphotypes
Komárek, Jiří; Komárková-Legnerová, Jaroslava
This article is the next study in a series of papers that documents the diversity of a unique, special, and characteristic cyanobacterial microflora of alkaline wetlands of Central America (northern Belize). We describe and document the variability, life cycles, and ecology for 36 distinct coccoid morphospecies. Taxonomic determination of these species is based on morphological phenotype and ecological preference of uncultured specimens. The coccoid cyanobacteria are among organisms forming cyanobacterial mats, and as such are an important ecological component of the extensive calcareous wetland ecosystems of the Yucatan peninsula. They develop primarily in the benthos and on submerged stems of wetland vegetation (mainly Eleocharis spp.). They eventually get released from submersed substrata and become floating mats at the water's surface. Cyanobacterial mats are typified by precipitation of calcareous marl, and they often fix atmospheric nitrogen. The taxonomic diversity of phenotypically distinguishable morphotypes is extraordinary high (about 80 traditional species were registered), and many of them are probably characteristic for similar ecosystems in the whole Caribbean region (Cuba, Jamaica, SE Mexico, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, Florida [USA], Venezuela). The majority of species are clearly different from all cyanobacterial morphotaxa described thus far from other habitats and/or regions. Of the 36 cyanoprokaryotic coccoid taxa discussed in this paper, 10 are described as new species following the rules and requirements of the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature, as the simplest starting point for future research. Ecological characteristics are used as an integral part of our taxonomic determinations.