Gregarious cyanobacteria

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Abstract

Summary

Huber and collaborators reported in this issue ofEnvironmental Microbiologyabout freshwater picocyanobacteria that showed phenotypic plasticity in the sense that they appeared as single cells as well as in aggregates. The authors suggested that aggregation might be an inducible defense as a response to the presence of grazers. This has been described for eukaryotic phytoplankton and for the cyanobacteriumMicrocystisbut thus far not for picocyanobacteria. Although inducible defense as an explanation is an attractive possibility, it is also problematic. Aggregation is common among cyanobacteria and it offers many advantages as compared with a free-living lifestyle. Here these advantages are highlighted and the possibility of inducible defense is critically assessed.

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