AME - Vol. 72 No. 3 - Feature article

Inland saltpans in Andalucia, Spain. Insets show Ciliated protozoa found in hypersaline aquatic habitats: Fabrea salina (top); Euplotes harpa (bottom). Images: F. Guerrero (saltpans); A. Galotti (protozoa)

Galotti A, Finlay BJ, Jiménez-Gómez F, Guerrero F, Esteban GF

 

Most ciliated protozoa in extreme environments are cryptic in the ‘seed bank’

 

The ability of microbial communities to react to a changing environment depends on a large local diversity of rare and encysted species. To test this, Galotti and co-workers investigated the species richness of ciliated protozoa in hypersaline inland saltpans. The authors found low number of ciliates thriving at extreme salinity; however, by gradually diluting the salt concentration of the samples in the laboratory they revealed a rather rich assemblage of ciliate species. These results show that most ciliate species in hypersaline aquatic habitats are dormant in the seed bank, awaiting favourable conditions for their growth. The authors found that in some of the hypersaline samples up to 100% of the ciliate species grew out after dilution, meaning that they were ‘hidden’ in the seed bank. The results highlight the importance of ciliate seed-banks as repositories of microbial diversity in the natural environment, enabling ecosystems to react to environmental change.

 

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