Current Microbiology

, Volume 65, Issue 2, pp 183–188 | Cite as

Endolithic Phototrophs in Built and Natural Stone

  • Christine C. GaylardeEmail author
  • Peter M. Gaylarde
  • Brett A. Neilan


Lichens, algae and cyanobacteria have been detected growing endolithically in natural rock and in stone buildings in various countries of Australasia, Europe and Latin America. Previously these organisms had mainly been described in natural carbonaceous rocks in aquatic environments, with some reports in siliceous rocks, principally from extremophilic regions. Using various culture and microscopy methods, we have detected endoliths in siliceous stone, both natural and cut, in humid temperate and subtropical climates. Such endolithic growth leads to degradation of the stone structure, not only by mechanical means, but also by metabolites liberated by the cells. Using in vitro culture, transmission, optical and fluorescence microscopy, and confocal laser scanning microscopy, both coccoid and filamentous cyanobacteria and algae, including Cyanidiales, have been identified growing endolithically in the facades of historic buildings built from limestone, sandstone, granite, basalt and soapstone, as well as in some natural rocks. Numerically, the most abundant are small, single-celled, colonial cyanobacteria. These small phototrophs are difficult to detect by standard microscope techniques and some of these species have not been previously reported within stone.


Sandstone Stromatolite Yucatan Peninsula Cyanobacterial Biomass Volcanic Tuff 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We are indebted to Helen Dalton at UNSW for assistance with CLSM. BAN thanks the Australian Research Council for financial support.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christine C. Gaylarde
    • 1
    Email author
  • Peter M. Gaylarde
    • 2
  • Brett A. Neilan
    • 3
  1. 1.Microbiology Research Laboratory, School of Pharmacy and Biomedical SciencesUniversity of PortsmouthPortsmouthUK
  2. 2.LondonUK
  3. 3.University of New South WalesSydneyAustralia

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