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In the present investigation, biological crusts from the surface of eight historical monuments of Varanasi, India, were examined for the presence of scytonemin (a cyanobacterial photoprotective pigment) containing cyanobacterial species. Lyngbya sp. and Scytonema sp. were the dominant cyanobacteria present in all crust samples. The absorption spectroscopic data of chlorophyll, carotenoids and scytonemin showed that scytonemin was more abundant than the carotene and chlorophyll in all the crusts. Identification of these compounds was done using UV-Vis spectroscopy and High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) analysis. HPLC analysis revealed the presence of scytonemin in seven out of eight samples and peaks of scytonemin with retention time ranging from 1.4-1.9 min with corresponding absorbance maxima at 386, 300 and 252±2 nm. As per our knowledge this is the first report of its kind from monuments of Varanasi. From this study, it can be concluded that synthesis of photoprotective compounds like scytonemin and its derivatives counteract the damaging effects of solar radiation which enable cyanobacteria to colonize and inhabit almost all kinds of habitats, including extreme lithic habitats, such as rocks and walls of monuments which face prolonged high intensity solar radiation.
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