Scanning electron micrograph of Gloeobacter kilaueensis (photo courtesy of UH Mānoa)

Scientists at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa have formally described an unusual new species found so far in only one cave in Kīlauea Caldera on Hawaiʻi.

The researchers reported their finding in an article, “Cultivation and complete genome sequencing of Gloeobacter kilaueensis sp. nov., from a lava cave in Kīlauea Caldera, Hawaiʻi,” published on October 23 in PLOS ONE.

Stuart Donachie

“We cultivated a new cyanobacterium from an almost 100-year-old lava cave in volcanically active Kīlauea Caldera,” said Associate Professor Stuart Donachie from the Department of Microbiology at the College of Natural Sciences. “This species has not been found anywhere else in the world.”

“We sequenced its genome and confirmed that it is only the second-known species in the Gloeobacter genus, the first species of which was described almost 40 years ago,” Donachie said.

“It’s a great find because both species represent an entire taxonomic order distinct from the other 7,500 known cyanobacteria species. They lack the photosynthetic membranes that are found in all those 7,500 species, which means they are also the most primitive known cyanobacteria,” Donachie said

Donachie teaches and conducts research in marine microbiology and other aspects of environmental microbiology. The research team included Jimmy Saw, who conducted the work as part of his PhD research, plus collaborators from Hawaiʻi and across the United States.

A UH Mānoa news release