• perennially ice covered lake;
  • Antarctica;
  • McMurdo Dry Valleys;
  • microbial assemblages;
  • phylogenetic diversity


Lake Vida, located in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica, is an ‘ice-sealed’ lake with ∼19 m of ice covering a highly saline water column (∼245 ppt). The lower portions of the ice cover and the lake beneath have been isolated from the atmosphere and land for circa 2800 years. Analysis of microbial assemblages within the perennial ice cover of the lake revealed a diverse array of bacteria and eukarya. Bacterial and eukaryal denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis phylotype profile similarities were low (<59%) between all of the depths compared (five depths spanning 11 m of the ice cover), with the greatest differences occurring between surface and deep ice. The majority of bacterial 16S rRNA gene sequences in the surface ice were related to Actinobacteria (42%) while Gammaproteobacteria (52%) dominated the deep ice community. Comparisons of assemblage composition suggest differences in ice habitability and organismal origin in the upper and lower portions of ice cover. Specifically, the upper ice cover microbiota likely reflect the modern day transport and colonization of biota from the terrestrial landscape, whereas assemblages in the deeper ice are more likely to be persistent remnant biota that originated from the ancient liquid water column of the lake that froze.