Isolation of a 250 million-year-old halotolerant bacterium from a primary salt crystal

Nature. 2000 Oct 19;407(6806):897-900. doi: 10.1038/35038060.


Bacteria have been found associated with a variety of ancient samples, however few studies are generally accepted due to questions about sample quality and contamination. When Cano and Borucki isolated a strain of Bacillus sphaericus from an extinct bee trapped in 25-30 million-year-old amber, careful sample selection and stringent sterilization techniques were the keys to acceptance. Here we report the isolation and growth of a previously unrecognized spore-forming bacterium (Bacillus species, designated 2-9-3) from a brine inclusion within a 250 million-year-old salt crystal from the Permian Salado Formation. Complete gene sequences of the 16S ribosomal DNA show that the organism is part of the lineage of Bacillus marismortui and Virgibacillus pantothenticus. Delicate crystal structures and sedimentary features indicate the salt has not recrystallized since formation. Samples were rejected if brine inclusions showed physical signs of possible contamination. Surfaces of salt crystal samples were sterilized with strong alkali and acid before extracting brines from inclusions. Sterilization procedures reduce the probability of contamination to less than 1 in 10(9).

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Bacillus / classification
  • Bacillus / growth & development
  • Bacillus / isolation & purification*
  • Crystallization
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phylogeny
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Sodium Chloride
  • Spores, Bacterial / isolation & purification
  • Time


  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S
  • Sodium Chloride

Associated data

  • GENBANK/AF166093