Diversity within cyanobacterial mat communities in variable salinity meltwater ponds of McMurdo Ice Shelf, Antarctica


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This study investigated the diversity of cyanobacterial mat communities of three meltwater ponds – Fresh, Orange and Salt Ponds, south of Bratina Island, McMurdo Ice Shelf, Antarctica. A combined morphological and genetic approach using clone libraries was used to investigate the influence of salinity on cyanobacterial diversity within these ecosystems without prior cultivation or isolation of cyanobacteria. We were able to identify 22 phylotypes belonging to Phormidium sp., Oscillatoria sp. and Lyngbya sp. In addition, we identified Antarctic Nostoc sp., Nodularia sp. and Anabaena sp. from the clone libraries. Fresh (17 phylotypes) and Orange (nine phylotypes) Ponds showed a similar diversity in contrast to that of the hypersaline Salt Pond (five phylotypes), where the diversity within cyanobacterial mats was reduced. Using the comparison of identified phylotypes with existing Antarctic sequence data, it was possible to gain further insight into the different levels of distribution of phylotypes identified in the investigated cyanobacterial mat communities of McMurdo Ice Shelf.