Does the potentially toxic cyanobacterium Microcystis exist in the soda lakes of East Africa?
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Presently, the food chains of the famous saline alkaline flamingo-lakes of East Africa are the focus of intense scientific discussion as the lakes host toxic cyanobacteria, which when consumed by Lesser Flamingos, weaken the birds and therefore make them susceptible to attacks by infective diseases. The distribution, genetic and toxicological aspects of Microcystis in Kenya has been studied extensively. Although there are reports on the occurrence of Microcystis in Kenya’s hypersaline alkaline lakes, they have not been confirmed. Our investigations carried out over a 10-year period in about 50 inland waters showed that Microcystis occurs exclusively in freshwaters, but never in the hypersaline alkaline lakes. Microscopic examinations of the phytoplankton of these lakes revealed the presence of Anabaenopsis abijatae (Nostococales) whose lumpy structure makes it roughly similar to Microcystis when viewed under an inverted microscope. We conclude that the possible occurrence of Microcystis in hypersaline alkaline lakes is doubtful and, as such, confirmatory studies including microphotographic documentation of findings should be carried out.
KeywordsAnabaenopsis East Africa Lesser Flamingo Microcystis Soda lakes Toxic cyanobacteria
We thank the Government of Kenya for permission to carry out this research (No. MOEST 13/001/31 C 90). We are grateful to the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research for its financial support (grant No. 01LC0001). Our sincere appreciation is also due to the County Councils of Koibatek and Baringo Districts and the Kenya Wildlife Service for granting us access to lakes Bogoria and Nakuru. Our gratitude is also due to Andreas Ballot, William Kimosop, and Hedy Kling, for their valuable input and useful discussions.
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