"This new species has a growth form and gene sequence so unusual that it does not fit into any of the existing families," said Susan Wilde, the Warnell professor who has been leading the research. "The naming convention for cyanobacteria is to use Greek for the genus—Aetokthonos translates to ‘eagle-killer.' The species name is always Latin, and hydrillicola means ‘lives on hydrilla.'"
Beginning in the mid-1990s, American bald eagles started to die off in noticeable numbers from a neurological disease called avian vacuolar myelinopathy. AVM was first found in Arkansas in 1994, but over the past two decades, 160 eagles are known to have died across the Southeast from the disease, including 80 from one Georgia impoundment on the Savannah River, the J. Strom Thurmond Reservoir.