Antarctic cryptoendolithic bacterial lineages of pre-Cambrian origin as proxy for Mars colonization
AbstractCryptoendolithic communities are microbial ecosystems dwelling inside porous rocks. They are able to persist at the edge of the biological potential for life in the ice-free areas of continental Antarctica. These areas include the McMurdo Dry Valleys, often cited as a Terrestrial analog of the Martian environment. Despite their interest as a model for the early colonization by living organisms of terrestrial ecosystems and for adaptation to extreme conditions of stress, little is known
... s, little is known about the evolution, diversity and genetic makeup of bacterial species that reside in these environments. We performed metagenomic sequencing of 18 communities from rocks collected in Antarctic desert areas over a distance of about 350 km. A total of 469 draft bacterial genome sequences were assembled, and clustered into 269 candidate species that lack a representative genome in public databases. The majority of these new species belong to monophyletic bacterial clades that diverged from related taxa in a range from 1.2 billion to 410 Ma, much earlier than the glaciation of Antarctica, and that are functionally distinct from known related taxa. The hypothesis that Antarctic cryptoendolithic bacterial lineages were generated by the selection of pre-existing cold-tolerant organisms whose origin dates back to the Tonian glaciations gives new insights for the possibility of life on Mars.