Introductory words and pictures of chain-forming diatoms

Some diatoms do not separate after an asexual reproduction, but adhere together and form chain-like colonies. These colonies can take the form of filaments, ribbons, stars or fans. The picture above shows a section of a colony of Melosira sp. (click to enlarge). In cultures one can often observe such colonies consisting of thousands of connected diatoms.

All following pictures are taken from cultures. For a larger view, first click on the displayed picture. The small thumbnails at the bottom of the first picture of a gallery can be enlarged by clicking on them.

In the subsequent image gallery on the left you can see colonies of Gomphonema forming overlapping fans. Gomphonema sp. is a motile diatom. It can detach from colonies and form a new colony elsewhere. Especially in newly created batch cultures, this Gomphonema can be seen moving between the still young colonies. This movement between such colonies is shown in the video on the left in 8-fold time-lapse.
Meridion circulare also forms fan-shaped colonies, which can be seen to the right.


Gomphonema sp.

Meridion sp.


In the following series of pictures on the left there are pictures of an Eunotia culture in which long ribbon-shaped chains are formed. Eunotia is also motile. At another section there is a contribution on their complex movement patterns.

To the right you find pictures of Melosira. First you see a small beaker containing nutrient solution, into which a few fragments of a young Melosira colony have been given. Already after a few days in suitable lighting, a fine web of long colonies appeared. This web was taken with the stereo microscope at two magnifications. In order to achieve sufficient contrast, the photos were taken with dark field illumination. The original colony has already been broken into several fragments.


Eunotia sp.

Melosira sp.

Pictures from a Fragilaria culture are shown in the picture gallery at the bottom left. Next to it on the right are pictures of a Diatoma culture (Diatoma tenuis?). This diatom also quickly develops a ball of connected diatoms in a beaker with nutrient solution. The diatoms do not lie parallel to each other, because they usually do not separate completely, so that zigzag forms develop.

Fragilaria sp.

Diatoma sp.


As a final example of chain-shaped colonies, a image gallery and a video of Bacillaria paxillifera (Bacillaria paradoxa) is shown below. The diatoms have a raphe and exhibit a remarkable mobility, which is apparent in parallel displacement of the diatoms relative to neighbouring diatoms.



Bacillaria paxillifera (40x lens, DIC) Bacillaria paxillifera (20x lens, 4x time lapse)


In nature, large colonies are easily broken into fragments by external influences such as a turbulent flow, so that only small colonies usually are found. Fragments can easily be drifted and may help spread.


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