Sea & Coastal Research

Zee & Kust Onderzoek    

ZKO - Data & Information Portal

Publication details


General information

Author(s) : T. Bauersachs, E. N. Speelman, E. C. Hopmans, G. J. Reichart, S. Schouten and J. S. S. Damste
Title : Fossilized glycolipids reveal past oceanic N-2 fixation by heterocystous cyanobacteria
Publication : Journal Article: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Year : 2010


Keyword(s) :anoxic events, azolla, cyanobacterial biomarkers, eocene arctic-ocean, intact polar lipids, marine-sediments, mass-spectrometry, membrane-lipids, nitrogen fixation, organic-matter, pacific-ocean, saproprel, sea, subsurface sediments, symbiosis
Abstracts : N-2-fixing cyanobacteria play an essential role in sustaining primary productivity in contemporary oceans and freshwater systems. However, the significance of N-2-fixing cyanobacteria in past nitrogen cycling is difficult to establish as their preservation potential is relatively poor and specific biological markers are presently lacking. Heterocystous N-2-fixing cyanobacteria synthesize unique long-chain glycolipids in the cell envelope covering the heterocyst cell to protect the oxygen-sensitive nitrogenase enzyme. We found that these heterocyst glycolipids are remarkably well preserved in (ancient) lacustrine and marine sediments, unambiguously indicating the (past) presence of N-2-fixing heterocystous cyanobacteria. Analysis of Pleistocene sediments of the eastern Mediterranean Sea showed that heterocystous cyanobacteria, likely as epiphytes in symbiosis with planktonic diatoms, were particularly abundant during deposition of sapropels. Eocene Arctic Ocean sediments deposited at a time of large Azolla blooms contained glycolipids typical for heterocystous cyanobacteria presently living in symbiosis with the freshwater fern Azolla, indicating that this symbiosis already existed in that time. Our study thus suggests that heterocystous cyanobacteria played a major role in adding "new" fixed nitrogen to surface waters in past stratified oceans.


For related items, please use the sub-menu's.
Project(s) :
  Cyanobacteria biogeochemical cycling  Role of cyanobacteria in past biogeochemical cycling
Dataset(s) :
Document(s) :