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Aquatic Microbial Ecology

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AME 73:1-16 (2014)  -  DOI:

Morphological and molecular approaches reveal highly stratified protist communities along Baltic Sea pelagic redox gradients

Felix Weber1, Ruth Anderson1, Wilhelm Foissner2, Alexander P. Mylnikov3, Klaus Jürgens1,*

1Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research Warnemünde, Department of Biological Oceanography, Seestrasse 15, 18119 Rostock, Germany
2University of Salzburg, Department of Organismic Biology, Hellbrunnerstrasse 34, 5020 Salzburg, Austria
3Institute of the Biology of Inland Waters, Russian Academy of Sciences, Yaroslavskaya Obl., Borok, Russia
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The deep basins of the central Baltic Sea are characterized by anoxic and sulfidic bottom water and steep vertical pelagic redox gradients. The highly active prokaryotic assemblages of this and other redox transition zones have been intensely studied, while knowledge on the protistan communities remains fragmentary. Thus, we conducted a multi-annual microscopy-based study, combined in one year with 18S rRNA gene and transcript-based DGGE fingerprints to identify the dominant protist taxa and to assess their vertical distribution. Both approaches, applied in high vertical resolution, demonstrated strong stratifications of the protist community composition along the redox gradient. The suboxic zone was dominated by dinoflagellates and oligotrichous ciliates related to Strombidium, whereas the interface and upper sulfidic zone were dominated by ciliates of the genera Mesodinium and Metacystis. Several flagellate taxa within the jakobids, euglenozoans and choanoflagellates occurred exclusively in sulfidic water. Our morphological approach indicates that the pelagic redoxclines of the central Baltic Sea are inhabited by a stable and characteristic protist community. Incongruously, certain taxa (e.g. Mesodinium and Metacystis sp.) which remained undetected by the molecular fingerprinting technique could be identified and enumerated by microscopic observations, whereas small and virtually amorphous protists (especially flagellates) were detected only by sequencing DGGE bands. Fine-scaled assessment of dominant protists in distinct redox strata is a crucial step in understanding their impact and interactions with the prokaryotic world and the biogeochemical processes they mediate in these zones.

KEY WORDS: Protists · Ciliates · Flagellates · Metacystis · 18S rRNA · Stratification · Redox gradient · Baltic Sea

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Cite this article as: Weber F, Anderson R, Foissner W, Mylnikov AP, Jürgens K (2014) Morphological and molecular approaches reveal highly stratified protist communities along Baltic Sea pelagic redox gradients. Aquat Microb Ecol 73:1-16.

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