Trichodesmium erythraeum

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Trichodesmium erythraeum
Scientific classification
Domain: Bacteria
Kingdom: Eubacteria
Phylum: Cyanobacteria
Class: Cyanophyceae
Order: Oscillatoriales
Family: Microcoleaceae
Genus: Trichodesmium
Species: T. erythraeum
Binomial name
Trichodesmium erythraeum
Ehrenberg ex Gomont

Trichodesmium erythraeum is a species of cyanobacteria that are unique in being visible to the naked eye.[1][2] This species is also known as "sea sawdust".


This is a prolific nitrogen-fixing species of bacteria that fixes approximately half of the nitrogen in the food chain of the ocean. Unlike other bacteria, it can also photosynthesize. This is a colonial species that forms long filaments. Some of the bacteria in the colony fix the nitrogen, and others are specialized for photosynthesis. However, the two processes must be done with two of them, because the oxygen byproduct that results from photosynthesis would interfere with the nitrogen-fixing process, so they must be done in separate cells.

Discoloration of the Red Sea[edit]

This species can also literally turn the Red Sea a red color that can be seen from outer space. The cause of this is unknown, but most scientists believe that a species of bacteria of the Trichodesmium genus, most likely this species, is the cause.


  1. ^ Fu, F. -X.; Zhang, Y.; Bell, P.R.F. & Hutchins, D.A. (2005). "Phosphate uptake and growth kinetics of Trichodesmium (Cyanobacteria) isolates from the north Atlantic Ocean and the Great Barrier Reef, Australia". Journal of Phycology. 41: 62–73. doi:10.1111/j.1529-8817.2005.04063.x. 
  2. ^ "Trichodesmium erythraeum Ehrenberg ex Gomont". Retrieved 22 July 2016.