The origin of cyanobacteria in Antarctic sea ice: marine or freshwater?

Authors

  • Eileen Y. Koh,

    Corresponding author
    1. School of Biological Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, PO Box 600, Wellington 6140, New Zealand
      E-mail koh_eileen@yahoo.com; Tel. (+65) 6516 6393; Fax (+65) 6776 6872.
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    • Present address: Department of Microbiology, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, MD-04, 5 Science Drive 2, National University of Singapore, Singapore 119077.

  • Rebecca O. M. Cowie,

    1. School of Biological Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, PO Box 600, Wellington 6140, New Zealand
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  • Aimee M. Simpson,

    1. School of Biological Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, PO Box 600, Wellington 6140, New Zealand
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  • Ronan O'Toole,

    1. School of Biological Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, PO Box 600, Wellington 6140, New Zealand
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  • Ken G. Ryan

    1. School of Biological Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, PO Box 600, Wellington 6140, New Zealand
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E-mail koh_eileen@yahoo.com; Tel. (+65) 6516 6393; Fax (+65) 6776 6872.

Summary

Cyanobacteria play an important role in the primary productivity of many ecosystems and are dominant in non-marine polar environments. Apart from detecting low levels of cyanobacteria-like pigments in the Southern Ocean, little effort has been spent in trying to elucidate Cyanobacteria in Antarctic sea ice. Here, we report the first use of culture, microscope, microarray and molecular techniques to show that marine Cyanobacteria are rare or absent in sea ice. Our infrequent positive signals were most closely related to freshwater Cyanobacteria from neighbouring terrestrial sources, which illustrates our techniques were sensitive enough to find sea-ice cyanobacteria if they were present. It is still possible that minute quantity of marine cyanobacteria may exist in sea ice and do not contribute significantly to the polar marine ecosystems.

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