Marine Biology

, Volume 61, Issue 2–3, pp 159–166 | Cite as

Nitrogen fixation in Oscillatoria (Trichodesmium) erythraea in relation to bundle formation and trichome differentiation

  • I. Bryceson
  • P. Fay


Planktonic populations of Oscillatoria (Trichodesmium) erythraea are abundant in the coastal waters of Tanzania (East Africa) during the northern monsoon period. The floating trichomes are either solitary or matted in bundles; the proportion of trichomes assembled in bundles can vary between 25 and 75%. Bundledness is inversely related to wind speed. Nitrogenase activity (acetylene reduction), which is directly related to bundledness, is high in the morning, declines by midday, and is measurable throughout the night. The trichomes display a clearly perceptible morphological differentiation into granulated and nongranulated regions, due apparently to the presence or absence of carboxysomes (polyhedral bodies) in the corresponding cells. Reducing conditions (tetrazolium reduction) are marked in the non-granulated region, particularly in cells which lie close to the granulated region of the trichome. Rod-shaped bacteria, which were invariably observed in the bundles, are more numerous around the non-granulated region of the trichome. Incorporation of 15N-nitrogen, following exposure to 15N2, was significantly higher in the O. erythraea fraction than in any associated particulate fractions. The results vouch for nitrogen fixation by O. erythraea and are consistent with the concept of segregation of photosynthetic and nitrogen-fixing activities along trichomes.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • I. Bryceson
    • 1
  • P. Fay
    • 2
  1. 1.Marine Biological StationUniversity of Dar es SalaamDar es SalaamTanzania
  2. 2.Department of Botany and Biochemistry, Westfield CollegeUniversity of LondonLondonEngland

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