Inter-Research > AME > v18 > n3 > p263-273  
Aquatic Microbial Ecology

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AME 18:263-273 (1999)  -  doi:10.3354/ame018263

Evidence for circumpolar distribution of planktonic Archaea in the Southern Ocean

Alison E. Murray1, Ke Ying Wu1, Craig L. Moyer2, Dave M. Karl3, Edward F. DeLong1,*

1Marine Science Institute, University of California, Santa Barbara, California 93106, USA
2Biology Department, Western Washington University, Bellingham, Washington 98225, USA
3Department of Oceanography, School of Ocean, Earth Science and Technology, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii 96822, USA
*Addressee for correspondence. Present address: Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, PO Box 628, Moss Landing, California 95039, USA. E-mail:

ABSTRACT: Surveys using rRNA-targeted probes specific for the 3 domains of life (Eucarya, Archaea, and Bacteria) indicated the presence, and at times high abundance, of archaeal rRNA in a variety of water masses surrounding Antarctica. Hybridization signals of archaeal rRNA contributed significantly to that of total picoplankton rRNA both north and south of the Polar Front in Drake Passage. Late winter surface water populations collected around the South Shetland Islands also yielded relatively high archaeal rRNA hybridization signals, approaching 10% or greater of the total rRNA. Summer samples collected in the western region of the Antarctic Peninsula and at McMurdo Sound in the Ross Sea region of Antarctica yielded lower amounts of archaeal rRNA in the surface waters, and higher levels of archaeal rRNA at depth (150 to 500 m). The hybridization data were compared to biological, chemical, and hydrographic information when possible. In surface waters, archaeal rRNA and chlorophyll a varied inversely. The data presented here further supports the hypothesis that planktonic archaea are a common, widespread and likely ecologically important component of Antarctic picoplankton assemblages. The presence of these archaea in circumpolar deep water suggests a conduit for their circumpolar transport around Antarctica via the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, as well as their export to the deep sea, or to intermediate waters of the South Atlantic via mixing at the polar front.

KEY WORDS: Planktonic archaea · SSU rRNA hybridization · Antarctica

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