Uncovered Microbial Diversity in Antarctic Cryptoendolithic Communities Sampling three Representative Locations of the Victoria Land

Microorganisms. 2020 Jun 23;8(6):942. doi: 10.3390/microorganisms8060942.


The endolithic niche represents an ultimate refuge to microorganisms in the Mars-like environment of the Antarctic desert. In an era of rapid global change and desertification, the interest in these border ecosystems is increasing due to speculation on how they maintain balance and functionality at the dry limits of life. To assure a reliable estimation of microbial diversity, proper sampling must be planned in order to avoid the necessity of re-sampling as reaching these remote locations is risky and requires tremendous logistical and economical efforts. In this study, we seek to determine the minimum number of samples for uncovering comprehensive bacterial and fungal diversity, comparing communities in strict vicinity to each other. We selected three different locations of the Victoria Land (Continental Antarctica) at different altitudes and showing sandstone outcrops of a diverse nature and origin-Battleship promontory (834 m above sea level (a.s.l.), Southern VL), Trio Nunatak (1,470 m a.s.l., Northern VL) and Mt New Zealand (3,100 m a.s.l., Northern VL). Overall, we found that a wider sampling would be required to capture the whole amplitude of microbial diversity, particularly in Northern VL. We concluded that the inhomogeneity of the rock matrix and the stronger environmental pressure at higher altitudes may force the communities to a higher local diversification.

Keywords: Antarctica; amplicon sequencing; bacteria; endolithic communities; fungi; habitat; sampling effort.