Big Word of the Month: Cyanobacteria

The warmer temperatures of summer stimulate the growth of an ancient life form in our local waters. Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, have been pumping oxygen into the environment for billions of years. Their buried remains contributed to the formation of fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas. Cyanobacteria live in almost every ecosystem in the world as well as living in symbiotic relationships with fungi to form lichens. You can find them in the ocean, in salty lakes, in freshwater lakes and stream, and even living on the fur of sloths!

Filaments of cyanobacteria in the bear pool.

Here at the museum we are beginning to some blue-green algae in some of our aquatic ecosystems. The picture at right shows some filaments of algae in the bear pool just below the waterfall. If you click on the picture to get a larger view, you might be able to see  some tadpoles. The lower pool or moat nearest the viewing area doesn’t receive sunlight so it rarely has much algae of any type.

In areas with excessive nutrient pollution (like streams near golf courses or hog farms), blue-green algae can grow rapidly in “blooms” and cause environmental problems. Biologists and health department staff usually monitor streams and lakes in the summer to check for algal blooms that might lead to unsafe drinking water or swimming conditions.

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