Phormidium pseudpriestleyi was first described by W West and G S West (1911), who studied the cyanobacterial samples collected by scientists James Murray and Raymond E Priestley during the British Imperial Antarctic expedition to Antarctica (Nimrod Expedition, 1907–1909) led by Ernest H Shackleton.

Phormidium pseudpriestleyi can be found in Antarctic lakes and ponds during summer in the southern hemisphere, where they form thick biofilms over sediment and rocks together with many other cyanobacteria species.

In some areas of Antarctica, cyanobacterial biofilms cover all the shallow zones of lakes and ponds and have characteristic bright orange-green and brown colours due to the production of pigments for UV radiation protection.

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