Frost flowers are highly saline ice structures that grow on the surface of young sea ice, a spatially extensive environment of increasing importance in the Arctic Ocean. In a previous study, we reported organic components of frost flowers in the form of elevated levels of bacteria and exopolymers relative to underlying ice. Here, DNA was extracted from frost flowers and young sea ice, collected in springtime from a frozen lead offshore of Barrow, Alaska, to identify bacteria in these understudied environments. Evaluation of the distribution of 16S rRNA genes via four methods (microarray analysis, T-RFLP, clone library and shotgun metagenomic sequencing) indicated distinctive bacterial assemblages between the two environments, with frost flowers appearing to select for Rhizobiales. A phylogenetic placement approach, used to evaluate the distribution of similar Rhizobiales sequences in other polar marine studies, indicated that some of the observed strains represent widely distributed members of the marine rare biosphere in both the Arctic and Antarctic.
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