Eukaryotic diversity in historical soil samples


  • Editor: Julian Marchesi

Correspondence: Johannes H. P. Hackstein, Department of Evolutionary Biology, Faculty of Science, Radboud University Nijmegen, Toernooiveld 1, NL 6525 ED Nijmegen, The Netherlands. Tel.: +31 24 365 2935; fax: +31 24 355 3450; e-mail:


The eukaryotic biodiversity in historical air-dried samples of Dutch agricultural soil has been assessed by random sequencing of an 18S rRNA gene library and by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis. Representatives of nearly all taxa of eukaryotic soil microbes could be identified, demonstrating that it is possible to study eukaryotic microbiota in samples from soil archives that have been stored for more than 30 years at room temperature. In a pilot study, 41 sequences were retrieved that could be assigned to fungi and a variety of aerobic and anaerobic protists such as cercozoans, ciliates, xanthophytes (stramenopiles), heteroloboseans, and amoebozoans. A PCR−denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis analysis of samples collected between 1950 and 1975 revealed significant changes in the composition of the eukaryotic microbiota.