Indexed on: 06 Feb '10Published on: 06 Feb '10Published in: Environmental Microbiology
Recent culture-based studies demonstrate the distinctiveness of the microbial eukaryote biota of very hypersaline environments. In contrast, microscopy-based faunistic studies suggest that the biota of habitats of more moderate hypersalinity (60-150 per thousand) overlaps substantially with that of marine environments, but this has barely been studied with modern techniques. To investigate the diversity and salinity tolerance range of these organisms, eight cultures of heterotrophic stramenopiles were established from (or from nearby) moderately hypersaline locations. These isolates represent five independent groups; Groups A, B and C are bicosoecids; Groups D and E belong to Placididea. One isolate (Group A) is a strain of the widespread marine species Cafeteria roenbergensis, and cannot grow above 100 per thousand salinity. The other isolates - Groups B-E - can all grow at 150-175 per thousand salinities and are probably moderate halophiles. Groups B-E all represent previously unsequenced species or even genera, although Group B is the sister group of the borderline extreme halophile Halocafeteria. The high level of novelty en countered suggests that moderately hypersaline environments may harbour a heterotrophic stramenopile biota distinct from that of marine environments. Interestingly, our new isolates are all most closely related to marine or halophilic forms, and our phylogenies show large clades defined by saline/non-saline habitats within bicosoecids, placidomonads and related lineages. In particular, most freshwater/soil bicosoecids form one well-supported clade. The sole major exception is Bicosoeca, which is intermixed with marine environmental sequences originally referred to as 'MAST-13', which are from brackish water, not typical seawater. It seems that the freshwater/marine barrier has been crossed very few times in the evolutionary history of these heterotrophic stramenopile flagellates.