Protist diversity in a permanently ice-covered Antarctic lake during the polar night transition

ISME J. 2011 Sep;5(9):1559-64. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2011.23. Epub 2011 Mar 10.


The McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica harbor numerous permanently ice-covered lakes, which provide a year-round oasis for microbial life. Microbial eukaryotes in these lakes occupy a variety of trophic levels within the simple aquatic food web ranging from primary producers to tertiary predators. Here, we report the first molecular study to describe the vertical distribution of the eukaryotic community residing in the photic zone of the east lobe (ELB) and west lobe (WLB) of the chemically stratified Lake Bonney. The 18S ribosomal RNA (rRNA) libraries revealed vertically stratified populations dominated by photosynthetic protists, with a cryptophyte dominating shallow populations (ELB-6 m; WLB-10 m), a haptophyte occupying mid-depths (both lobes 13 m) and chlorophytes residing in the deepest layers (ELB-18 and 20 m; WLB-15 and 20 m) of the photic zone. A previously undetected stramenopile occurred throughout the water column of both lobes. Temporal variation in the eukaryotic populations was examined during the transition from Antarctic summer (24-h sunlight) to polar night (complete dark). Protist diversity was similar between the two lobes of Lake Bonney due to exchange between the photic zones of the two basins via a narrow bedrock sill. However, vertical and temporal variation in protist distribution occurred, indicating the influence of the unique water chemistry on the biology of the two dry valley watersheds.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Antarctic Regions
  • Biodiversity
  • Eukaryota / classification*
  • Eukaryota / isolation & purification
  • Fresh Water / chemistry
  • Fresh Water / parasitology*
  • Ice Cover
  • Molecular Sequence Data

Associated data

  • GENBANK/GU969060
  • GENBANK/GU969061
  • GENBANK/GU969062
  • GENBANK/GU969063
  • GENBANK/GU969064
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  • GENBANK/GU969102