Scientists from the Faculty of Water Sciences (VTK) of the National University of Public Service in Hungary have identified a new species of diatom in the Körtvélyes Holt-Tisza (Mártély Landscape Conservation Area). The university’s experts used the most modern methods to study the minuscule organism and found out that it’s an unknown diatom.
Diatoms are found in both marine and freshwater environments. They are a major component of plankton, which is the community of organisms living in the water column and on the bottom associated with all types of aquatic systems. These microscopic creatures are important indicators of water pollution and their precise species identification is essential for the assessment of the ecological status of surface waters.
The newly discovered diatom species has been named Mayamaea ectorii, its type material is deposited in the Hungarian Museum of Natural History, and its sequence is in the NCBI GenBank (National Center for Biotechnology Information) database. It was given that name in honor of Luc Ector, a Belgian diatom specialist with whom the university has worked for decades, and who passed away recently.
The newly found species is an alga with a solid silica (SiO2) skeleton of less than 10 micrometres (0.01 mm), and it dominates the species living on the surface of aquatic plants.
These species has been presumably hidden from us until now because their small size requires a magnification beyond the limits of the light microscope to determine them accurately. To study them, an electron microscope is needed.
A few years ago, diatom studies started as a new research direction at the University, and Halamphora dominici, a characteristic diatom of Hungarian salt lakes, was one of the first species to be discovered. The name of the genus (Halamphora) indicates that the species prefer halophilic, i.e. highly saline, waters. (Interestingly, this organism was first found in a high mountain salt lake in Bolivia during an expedition organised by NASA and was described as a new species in 2009.)