The Cyanidiales: Ecology, Biodiversity, and Biogeography

  • Richard W. Castenholz
  • Timothy R. McDermott
Part of the Cellular Origin, Life in Extreme Habitats and Astrobiology book series (COLE, volume 13)


The order Cyanidiales (or class Cyanidiophyceae) is comprised of asexual, unicellular red algae that are known to grow in low pH environments (0.2–3.5 or 4.0) and at moderately high temperatures (up to 56°C) and are typically found in acidic geothermal habitats throughout the Earth. No other photosynthetic microorganisms are known to inhabit this combination of conditions. The order Cyanidiales, since 1981, is thought to consist of three genera: Cyanidium, Galdieria, and Cyanidioschyzon (Ciniglia et al., 2004; Gross et al., 2001; Heilmann and Gross, 2001). This group of algae appears to be phylogenetically quite distinct from the main line of descent in the red algae and branches off quite early in geologic time (i.e. ∼ 1.3–1.4 Ga), based on phylogenetic, molecular clock inference and fossil evidence for the first reputed macroalgae, which are presumed to be ancestors of the Rhodophyta (Yoon et al., 2002, 2004, 2006b). In this chapter, we comment on the ecology, biodiversity, and biogeography of these fascinating eukaryotic extremophiles, attempting to assimilate recent, important developments in our understanding of these algae.


Acidic algae allophycocyanin antimony arsenic carotenoids chlorophyll a c-phycocyanin copper cultivation Cyanidium Cyanidiales Cyanidioschyzon extremophiles endolithic endosymbion geothermal heavy metals low pH mat decline phototrophs red algae Rhodophyta Galdieria Iceland Japan mercury New Zealand UV radiation Yellowstone 



Support for writing of this paper was from NSF Microbial Interactions and Processes (MCB-0702177). The unpublished sequence work of Elizabeth Perry for the Icelandic isolates is gratefully acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of OregonEugeneUSA
  2. 2.Thermal Biology Institute and Department of Land ResourcesEnvironmental Sciences Montana State UniversityBozemanUSA

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