Lyngbya wollei (light micrograph)
Lyngbya is a filamentous (forming a chainlike series of cells) genus of algae belonging to a group known as cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae. These cyanobacteria grow in unbranched and slightly wavy filaments that attach to seagrass, seaweed, coral, and rocks. Lyngbya is found in lakes, rivers, springs, and water supply reservoirs throughout the southeastern United States. In high concentrations, it forms tangles or thick, gluey mats on the water’s surface. Various species produce chemicals that cause skin, eye, and respiratory irritation. Lyngbya blooms occur only in the presence of warm temperatures and sufficient nutrients. Blooms can smother seagrass, shellfish habitats, and coral reefs.