• Category
  • Diameter
    5-12 µm
  • Width Range
    1.5-3.0 µm
  • Striae in 10 µm
    9-12 based on circumferential density
  • Reported As
    Cyclotella indistincta (Kociolek et al. 2014, p. 14, Pl. 10, Figs 9-16, Pl. 13, Figs 1-5)



Valves are disc-shaped with a tangentially undulate valve face, although the undulation is difficult to discern under LM in smaller specimens. A colliculate valve face covers 1/2 to 3/4 of the valve face and creates either an irregular or star-like shape. The striae, occurring 18-21 in 10 µm based on chord count, are composed of two rows of areolae with a row of small pores present between the larger areolae. The striae vary in length and terminate on the valve face to create an irregular circular central area. A single central fultoportula is present on the depressed half of the valve face. The rimoportula is located on the raised half of the valve face, at the end of a shortened stria. Marginal fultoportulae occur on the mantle between every 3rd to 4th striae. No spines are present.

Here we present specimens of Lindavia comensis that conform to the type (Scheffler et al. 2005). Lindavia comensis, however, shows high morphological variability within frustules (heterovalvy), within populations and among populations. This variability has been the subject of many studies and several species complexes have been identified that encapsulate the variation: the “Cyclotella comensis-pseudocomensis-costei group” (Kistenich et al. 2014), the “Cyclotella rossii-comensis-tripartita-complex” (Cremer et al. 2001), the “Cyclotella ocellata/C. comensis complex” (Duleba et al. 2015), “C. comensis morphs” (Hausmann and Lotter 2001, Werner and Smol 2006), “Cyclotella comensis and related morphotypes” (Wunsam et al. 1995), the Cyclotella comensis/var. 1/var. 2/michiganiana-comensis group (Reavie and Kireta 2015), and the dimorphic Cyclotella comensis-minima forms (Scheffler et al. 2005). Attempts to discern the indicator value of L. comensis morphological variation have included several attempts to classify morphogroups, determine the environmental variables linked to morphological variation, and molecular approaches that compare phylogeny to morphological variation.

Attempts to differentiate morphological groups within the L. comensis-complex have included simple morphometric/morphologic separation based on size, striae/alveolae pattern, central area shape, central area ornamentation, and central area topography. Werner and Smol (2006) identified four common morphotypes in Ontario lakes including “comensis”, “comensis rossii”, “comensis socialis”, and “comensis fine”. Reavie and Kireta (2015) recognized four morphotypes from the Laurentian Great Lakes including Cyclotella comensis, C. comensis var. 1, C. comensis var. 2, and C. comensis michiganiana-comensis. Cremer et al. (2001) saw variability in small Greenland “Cyclotella sp. A” that encompassed variation typical of C. rossii, C.comensis, and C.tripartita. Wunsam et al. (1995) recognized Cyclotella comensis of the type and four additional morphotypes in European Alpine lakes. Still others have treated closely related members of these groups as synonymous, e.g. Cyclotella pseudocomensis as a latter synonym of C. comensis (Scheffler et al. 2005) or as separate and recognizable taxa (Houk et al. 2010). Multivariate and multi-character approaches for differentiating groups in this complex have also been used to identified up to six morphs (Hausmann and Lotter 2001, Kistenich et al. 2014, Duleba et al. 2015).

The significance of these morphotypes and morphological variability has been more difficult to resolve. Cremer et al. (2001) noted that the “C. rossii” morphotype was most common among their forms but could not determine any historical patterns among morphotypes in paleolimnological records from Greenland. Rühland et al. (2008) presented grouped data of small planktonic “Cyclotella s.l.” (sensu lato) suggesting that the unresolved group of taxa showed high responsiveness to climatic drivers. Saros et al. (2012) and Saros and Anderson (2014) showed that Cyclotella comensis, without any resolution of morphological variants, had strong indicator value for nitrogen levels and lake mixing depth. Werner and Smol (2006) noted no significant patterns in ecological distribution among their four morphotypes. Reavie and Kireta (2015) showed that, in the Great Lakes, there was little difference in TP or chloride optima between C. comensis and C. comensis var. 2, but did note that the former was a strong indicator of low anthropogenic stress in coastal environments. Hausmann and Lotter (2001) noted that alkalinity and total phosphorus were not correlated with their morphological groups, but did identify significant relationships between summer lake temperature (altitude) and some morphotypes. Molecular studies on the C. comensis group have used morphological characteristics to classify terminal taxa and molecular analysis to test those morphological groups. Kistenich et al. (2014) could not separate C. comensis, C. pseudocomensis, and C. costei based on morphology because of high morphological variability, and were similarly not able to distinguish them based on molecular analysis, thus concluding they were one taxon. Duleba et al. (2015) similarly used morphology to identify C. comensis, C. pseudocomensis, and C. costei forms in their cultures, but concluded based on molecular analyses that these taxa were conspecific and closely related to C. ocellata by a possible recent divergence.


Lindavia comensis was most abundant in coastal wetlands of Lake Superior and has low TP and Cl optima (Reavie and Kireta 2015). Cells live in the plankton as unicells or as short colonies (Houk et al. 2010). Werner and Smol (2006) reported L. comensis as common in many Ontario (Canada) lakes and had highest abundance in circumneutral-alkaline (pH > 8.2, Alk >80 mg/l) and oligo-mesotrophic lakes (TP < 20 µg/l). Saros and Anderson (2014) showed that L. comensis was found at TP < 10 µg/l. Bramburger and Reavie (2016) showed that L. comensis is a predominant member of the deep chlorophyll layer in the Upper Great Lakes and that this species has been increasing in abundance in relation to climate drivers (Bramburger et al. 2017, Reavie et al. 2017, Chraïbi et al. 2014).

Licomensis  Usgsbiodata
Credit: USGS/Biodata
The distribution of Lindavia comensis in rivers of the lower 48 United States. Accessed on 10 July, 2017.

Original Description

  • Basionym
    Cyclotella comensis
  • Author
    Grunow in Van Heurck 1882

Original Images

Cyclotella comensis orig illus
Cyclotella comensis orig descr

Citations & Links



  • Index Nominum Algarum
  • CAS
  • North American Diatom Ecological Database
    NADED ID: 20023

Cite This Page

Burge, D, and Edlund, M, and Manoylov, K, and Ognjanova-Rumenova, N. (2016). Lindavia comensis. In Diatoms of North America. Retrieved July 16, 2018, from https://diatoms.org/species/cyclotella_comensis


The 15 response plots show an environmental variable (x axis) against the relative abundance (y axis) of Lindavia comensis from all the stream reaches where it was present. Note that the relative abundance scale is the same on each plot. Explanation of each environmental variable and units are as follows:

ELEVATION = stream reach elevation (meters)
STRAHLER = distribution plot of the Strahler Stream Order
SLOPE = stream reach gradient (degrees)
W1_HALL = an index that is a measure of streamside (riparian) human activity that ranges from 0 - 10, with a value of 0 indicating of minimal disturbance to a value of 10 indicating severe disturbance.
PHSTVL = pH measured in a sealed syringe sample (pH units)
log_COND = log concentration of specific conductivity (µS/cm)
log_PTL = log concentration of total phosphorus (µg/L)
log_NO3 = log concentration of nitrate (µeq/L)
log_DOC = log concentration of dissolved organic carbon (mg/L)
log_SIO2 = log concentration of silicon (mg/L)
log_NA = log concentration of sodium (µeq/L)
log_HCO3 = log concentration of the bicarbonate ion (µeq/L)
EMBED = percent of the stream substrate that is embedded by sand and fine sediment
log_TURBIDITY = log of turbidity, a measure of cloudiness of water, in nephelometric turbidity units (NTU).
DISTOT = an index of total human disturbance in the watershed that ranges from 1 - 100, with a value of 0 indicating of minimal disturbance to a value of 100 indicating severe disturbance.