Marine subsurface eukaryotes: the fungal majority


E-mail; Tel. (+1) 508 289 3734; Fax (+1) 508 457 2076.


Studies on the microbial communities of deep subsurface sediments have indicated the presence of Bacteria and Archaea throughout the sediment column. Microbial eukaryotes could also be present in deep-sea subsurface sediments; either bacterivorous protists or eukaryotes capable of assimilating buried organic carbon. DNA- and RNA-based clone library analyses are used here to examine the microbial eukaryotic diversity and identify the potentially active members in deep-sea sediment cores of the Peru Margin and the Peru Trench. We compared surface communities with those much deeper in the same cores, and compared cores from different sites. Fungal sequences were most often recovered from both DNA- and RNA-based clone libraries, with variable overall abundances of different sequence types and different dominant clone types in the RNA-based and the DNA-based libraries. Surficial sediment communities were different from each other and from the deep subsurface samples. Some fungal sequences represented potentially novel organisms as well as ones with a cosmopolitan distribution in terrestrial, fresh and salt water environments. Our results indicate that fungi are the most consistently detected eukaryotes in the marine sedimentary subsurface; further, some species may be specifically adapted to the deep subsurface and may play important roles in the utilization and recycling of nutrients.