Cyanobacteria are the major oxygenic photosynthetic microorganisms of hot spring travertines. This review describes the known cyanobacterium flora of travertine-depositing waters > 37 °C. The communities develop either upon (epilithon) or within (endolithon) the travertine surface, where they may influence the travertine fabric by providing nucleation sites for calcium carbonate. Mat photosynthesis locally increases the amount of travertine deposited, but the importance of photosynthesis in travertine deposition is rarely significant because the main loss of CO2 is by atmospheric evasion of the hot, CO2-rich waters. The Oscillatoriales are the most important group of cyanobacteria in terms of their biomass, but the taxonomy of the order is in a state of chaos. Molecular methods will ultimately disclose the true affinities of the organisms but, at present, the use of form-taxa based upon morphological characters provides a practical alternative. Identification of fossilized cyanobacteria is problematic since few of the key characters survive as fossils. The known cyanobacterium flora is tabulated and an analytical key provided to identify the form-taxa of hot spring travertines.

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