DNA was extracted from surface-sterilized salt of different geological ages (23, 121, 419 million years of age, MYA) to investigate haloarchaeal diversity. Only Haloarcula and Halorubrum DNA was found in 23 MYA salt. Older crystals contained unclassified groups and Halobacterium. The older crystals yielded a unique 55-bp insert within the 16S rRNA V2 region. The secondary structure of the V2 region completely differed from that in haloarchaea of modern environments. The DNA demonstrates that unknown haloarchaea and the Halobacterium were key components in ancient hypersaline environments. Halorubrum and Haloarcula appear to be a dominant group in relatively modern hypersaline habitats.
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