Pigments, size and distribution of Phycoerythrin-containing unicellular cyanobacteria Synechococcus spp. within the euphotic zone were studied for the first time in April-May 1994 in the western and southwestern Black Sea by epifluorescence microscopy and flow-cytometry. Synechococcus was present in varying quantities at every station and depth studied. Surface spatial distribution of Synechococcus revealed that cells were much more abundant in offshore waters than near coastal regions under the direct influence of the Danube river. Minimum and maximum cell concentrations ranged between 9 x 10(2) and 1.45 x 10(5) cells/ml at the surface, between 2 x 10(3) and 1.23 10(5) cells/ml at the chlorophyll sub-maximum layer, and between 1.3 x 10(2) and 3.5 x 10(2) at the nitrite maximum layer. Cells at the chlorophyll sub-maximum layer (based on in-situ fluorometer readings) fluoresce brighter and longer than the ones at the surface and lower depths. Spectral properties of chromophore pigment types of total 64 clonal isolates from different depths down to the lower layer of the euphotic zone (similar to 60 m) in the southern Black Sea coast revealed that all have type 2 phycoerythrobilin in common, lacking in phycourobilin. In vivo fluorescence emission maxima for the phycoerythrobilin were about the same (similar to 578 nm) for all isolates. All isolates examined showed in vivo absorption maxima at between 435 and 442 nm and at about 681 nm due to chlorophyll-a. Based on the flow cytometer mean forward light scatter data for size distribution, it could be concluded that cells at the surface mixed layer (0-10 m) were larger in cell size than the cells at lower depths (20-60 m). (C) 2000 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.