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Environ Microbiol. 2008 Apr;10(4):1080-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1462-2920.2007.01498.x. Epub 2008 Jan 21.

A hotspot for cold crenarchaeota in the neuston of high mountain lakes.

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Group of Limnology-Department of Continental Ecology, Centre d'Estudis Avançats de Blanes-CSIC, Accés Cala Sant Francesc, 14. 17300 Blanes, Girona, Spain.


We have surveyed the first 1 m of 10 oligotrophic high mountain lakes in the Central Pyrenees (Spain) for both abundance and predominant phylotypes richness of the archaeaplankton assemblage, using CARD-FISH and 16S rRNA gene sequencing respectively. Archaea inhabiting the air-water surface microlayer (neuston) ranged between 3% and 37% of total 4,6-diamidino-2-phenylindole (DAPI) counts and were mainly Crenarchaeota of a new freshwater cluster distantly related to the Marine Group 1.1a. Conversely, most of the Archaea from the underlying waters (the remaining first 1 m integrated) were mainly Euryarchaeota of three distantly related branches ranging between 0.4% and 27% of total DAPI counts. Therefore, a consistent qualitative and quantitative spatial segregation was observed for the two main archaeal phyla between neuston and underlying waters at a regional scale. We also observed a consistent pattern along the lakes surveyed between lake area, lake depth and water residence time, and the archaeal enrichment in the neuston: the larger the lake the higher the proportion of archaea in the neuston as compared with abundances from the underlying waters (n = 10 lakes; R(2) > 0.80; P < 0.001, in all three cases). This is the first report identifying a widespread non-thermophilic habitat where freshwater planktonic Crenarchaeota can be found naturally enriched. High mountain lakes offer great research opportunities to explore the ecology of one of the most enigmatic and far from being understood group of prokaryotes.

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