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Diversity (Basel). 2017 Sep;9(3). pii: 31. doi: 10.3390/d9030031. Epub 2017 Aug 15.

16S rRNA Gene-Based Metagenomic Analysis of Ozark Cave Bacteria.

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Math and Science Division, Lyon College, 2300 Highland Road, Batesville, AR 72501, USA.
Department of Biomedical Informatics, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, AR 72205, USA.
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, AR 72205, USA.


The microbial diversity within cave ecosystems is largely unknown. Ozark caves maintain a year-round stable temperature (12-14 °C), but most parts of the caves experience complete darkness. The lack of sunlight and geological isolation from surface-energy inputs generate nutrient-poor conditions that may limit species diversity in such environments. Although microorganisms play a crucial role in sustaining life on Earth and impacting human health, little is known about their diversity, ecology, and evolution in community structures. We used five Ozark region caves as test sites for exploring bacterial diversity and monitoring long-term biodiversity. Illumina MiSeq sequencing of five cave soil samples and a control sample revealed a total of 49 bacterial phyla, with seven major phyla: Proteobacteria, Acidobacteria, Actinobacteria, Firmicutes, Chloroflexi, Bacteroidetes, and Nitrospirae. Variation in bacterial composition was observed among the five caves studied. Sandtown Cave had the lowest richness and most divergent community composition. 16S rRNA gene-based metagenomic analysis of cave-dwelling microbial communities in the Ozark caves revealed that species abundance and diversity are vast and included ecologically, agriculturally, and economically relevant taxa.


16S rRNA gene; Illumina MiSeq Sequencing; bacteria; caves; chemoautotrophs

Conflict of interest statement

Conflicts of Interest: The authors declare no conflict of interest. The funding sponsors had no role in the design of the study; in the collection, analyses, or interpretation of data; in the writing of the manuscript, and in the decision to publish the results.

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