Lake Cadagno is a crenogenic meromictic lake situated in the southern range of the Swiss Alps characterized by a compact chemocline that has been the object of many ecological studies. The population dynamics of phototrophic sulfur bacteria in the chemocline has been monitored since 1994 with molecular methods such as 16S rRNA gene clone library analysis. To reconstruct paleo-microbial community dynamics, we developed a quantitative real-time PCR methodology for specific detection of 16S rRNA gene sequences of purple and green sulfur bacteria populations from sediment samples. We detected fossil 16S rDNA of nine populations of phototrophic sulfur bacteria down to 9-m sediment depth, corresponding to about 9500 years of the lake’s biogeological history. These results provide the first evidence for the presence of 16S rDNA of anoxygenic phototrophic bacteria in Holocene sediments of an alpine meromictic lake and indicate that the water column stratification and the bacterial plume were already present in Lake Cadagno thousands of years ago. The finding of Chlorobium clathratiforme remains in all the samples analyzed shows that this population, identified in the water column only in 2001, was already a part of the lake’s biota in the past.
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