Microcystins (MCs) are potent hepatotoxins, and their presence in water bodies poses a threat to wildlife and human populations. Most of the available information refers to plankton, and much less is known about microcystins in other habitats. To broaden our understanding of the presence and environmental distribution of this group of toxins, we conducted extensive sampling throughout Spain, under a range of conditions and in distinct aquatic and terrestrial habitats. More than half of the tested strains were toxic; concentrations of the hepatotoxin were low compared with planktic communities, and the number of toxic variants identified in each sample of the Spanish strains ranged from 1–3. The presence of microcystins LF and LY (MC-LF and MC-LY) in the tested samples was significant, and ranged from 21.4% to 100% of the total microcystins per strain. These strains were only detected in cyanobacteria Oscillatoriales and Nostocales. We can report, for the first time, seven new species of microcystin producers in high mountain rivers and chasmoendolithic communities. This is the first report of these species in Geitlerinema
and the confirmation of Anatoxin-a in Phormidium uncinatum
. Our findings show that microcystins are widespread in all habitat types, including both aerophytic and endolithic peat bogs and that it is necessary to identify all the variants of microcystins in aquatic bodies as the commonest toxins sometimes represent a very low proportion of the total.
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