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Nature. 2002 May 9;417(6885):137.

Microbiology: eukaryotic diversity in Spain's River of Fire.

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  • 1Josephine Bay Paul Center for Comparative Molecular Biology and Evolution, Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543, USA.


The Rio Tinto, known by the Phoenicians as 'Ur-yero', or 'River of Fire', because of its deep red colour and high acidity, flows through the world's largest pyritic belt in southwestern Spain. Surprisingly, eukaryotic microbes are the principal contributors of biomass in this hostile river, which has a pH of 2 and contains much higher concentrations of heavy metals than are typically found in fresh waters. Here we show that the Rio Tinto shows an unexpected degree of eukaryotic diversity and includes new lineages that we have identified by sequence analysis of genes encoding small-subunit ribosomal RNAs. The diversity of these eukaryotes is much greater than that of prokaryotes, whose metabolism is responsible for the extreme environment.

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