Cyanobacterial diversity in Salar de Huasco, a high altitude saline wetland in northern Chile: an example of geographical dispersion?


  • Editor: Patricia Sobecky

Correspondence: Present address: Cristina Dorador, Centro de Biotecnología, Universidad Católica del Norte, Angamos 0610, Antofagasta, Chile. Tel.: +56 55 355 486; fax: +56 55 355 199; e-mail:


The diversity of Cyanobacteria in water and sediment samples from four representative sites of the Salar de Huasco was examined using denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis and analysis of clone libraries of 16S rRNA gene PCR products. Salar de Huasco is a high altitude (3800 m altitude) saline wetland located in the Chilean Altiplano. We analyzed samples from a tributary stream (H0) and three shallow lagoons (H1, H4, H6) that contrasted in their physicochemical conditions and associated biota. Seventy-eight phylotypes were identified in a total of 268 clonal sequences deriving from seven clone libraries of water and sediment samples. Oscillatoriales were frequently found in water samples from sites H0, H1 and H4 and in sediment samples from sites H1 and H4. Pleurocapsales were found only at site H0, while Chroococcales were recovered from sediment samples of sites H0 and H1, and from water samples of site H1. Nostocales were found in sediment samples from sites H1 and H4, and water samples from site H1 and were largely represented by sequences highly similar to Nodularia spumigena. We suggest that cyanobacterial communities from Salar de Huasco are unique – they include sequences related to others previously described from the Antarctic, along with others from diverse, but less extreme environments.