Cyanobacterial metabolites are increasingly studied, in regards to their biosynthesis, ecological role, toxicity, and potential biomedical applications. However, the history of cyanotoxins prior to the last few decades is virtually unknown. Only a few paleolimnological studies have been undertaken to date, and these have focused exclusively on microcystins and cylindrospermopsins, both successfully identified in lake sediments up to 200 and 4700 years old, respectively. In this paper, we review direct extraction, quantification, and application of cyanotoxins in sediment cores, and put forward future research prospects in this field. Cyanobacterial toxin research is also compared to other paleo-cyanobacteria tools, such as sedimentary pigments, akinetes, and ancient DNA isolation, to identify the role of each tool in reproducing the history of cyanobacteria. Such investigations may also be beneficial for further elucidation of the biological role of cyanotoxins, particularly if coupled with analyses of other abiotic and biotic sedimentary features. In addition, we identify current limitations as well as future directions for applications in the field of paleolimnological studies on cyanotoxins.
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