, Volume 623, Issue 1, pp 1–35 | Cite as

Diatom teratological forms and environmental alterations: a review

  • Elisa Falasco
  • Francesca Bona
  • Guido Badino
  • Lucien Hoffmann
  • Luc Ector


The foremost feature of a diatom is the species-specific ornamentation of the silicon cell wall, which is preserved and faithfully reproduced through the generations. If exposed to different kinds of stress during reproductive processes, the diatom cell outline and striation pattern can change in different ways, producing teratological forms. These modifications can be slight, leading to difficulties in establishing a threshold between normal and teratological cells, or so marked that it is very difficult to recognize whether an unknown form is teratological or whether it belongs to a new species or variety. Teratological forms appear as an accidental effect of environmental stresses, which can be both physical and chemical. Artificial conditions also often lead to the development of teratological forms. Most frequently, diatoms present abnormal valve outline (lack of symmetry, bent, incised, swollen, or notched profile), unusual raphe system (fragmented, displaced, and bifurcated), abnormal striation pattern (irregular, altered, fragmented, and branched), and unusual raphe channel system (distorted, curved, and occasionally doubled back). In this review we analyzed 222 articles, published from 1890 up to 2008, with the aim to correlate the abnormal diatom cell morphology to environmental alterations, in a perspective which can greatly enhance the evaluation of river environmental quality for biomonitoring purposes.


Biomonitoring purpose Diatoms River contamination Teratology 



The authors are grateful to the colleagues who contributed to this review providing bibliography, to Daša Hlúbiková and Christophe Bouillon for the SEM pictures and to Saúl Blanco for his precious advices. This research rises from the collaboration between Turin University (Italy) and the Public Research Center—Gabriel Lippmann (Luxembourg) and is part of a PhD programme in “Plant and Environment Biosensing” of the PhD School of Turin.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elisa Falasco
    • 1
    • 2
  • Francesca Bona
    • 1
  • Guido Badino
    • 1
  • Lucien Hoffmann
    • 2
  • Luc Ector
    • 2
  1. 1.DBAUUniversity of TurinTurinItaly
  2. 2.Department of Environment and Agro-biotechnologies (EVA)Public Research Center – Gabriel LippmannBelvauxLuxembourg

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