SALINITY TOLERANCE OF DIATOMS FROM THALASSIC HYPERSALINE ENVIRONMENTS

Authors


Author for correspondence: e-mail ferran@asu.edu.

Abstract

Thirty-four benthic diatom strains were isolated from thalassic hypersaline marine environments and their salinity tolerance characterized in growth experiments conducted at salinities ranging from 0.5% to 17.5% (weight of total salts per volume, g·100 mL1). The results were compared with the patterns of diatom species distribution and abundance in hypersaline evaporation ponds and tidal channels of Guerrero Negro, Baja California Sur, Mexico. The isolated strains were representative of the diatom assemblages present in the saltern ponds but were less so of natural assemblages in tidal channels. In general, we found a clear decreasing trend of diatom diversity in the field and in the isolated strains with increasing salinity. With some exceptions, the upper limit of salinity tolerance in cultivated strains corresponded to their distribution in field samples. However, the relative abundance of species in the field was not correlated with growth rates achieved in culture for the same salinities. Most cultured strains exhibited extreme euryhalinity growing well from brackish to hypersaline conditions, but the particulars of salt tolerance were quite diverse among strains. The most halotolerant taxa, two Amphora species, Amphora cf. subacutiuscula Schoeman, Nitzschia fusiformis Grunow, and Entomoneis sp., grew well in salinities ranging from 0.5% to 15%. Three strains of Pleurosigma strigosum W. Smith that were unable to grow in salinities less than 5% total salts represent the only true halophilic diatoms ever reported. The fact that many strains displayed a remarkable halotolerance, with optimal or near-optimal growth rates at salinities as high as three times that of seawater, implies that diatoms from hypersaline environments are evolutionarily highly adapted to such environments.

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