Niche for high abundant extremophilic microbial communities in an ancient crater
International Journal of Astrobiology
AbstractAl Wahbah Crater, located in a remote area in western Saudi Arabia as part of The Harrat extinct volcanic chain, is 2 km wide with a depth of 250 m. It is registered by the General Commission for Tourism and National Heritage as an ancient and archaeological site. The crater is subjected to extreme environmental conditions as its bottom is rarely subjected to rainfall and mudflows. Because of high temperature, high evaporation rates and extremely limited rainfall, the crater leaves
... crater leaves behind dried thick white sodium phosphate crystals. Here, we studied the chemical composition and the microbial community composition using 16S rRNA pyrosequencing in different vertical layers (2, 20, 40, 60, 80 and 100 cm) of the crater sediment. Total sodium concentrations were 28 000– 46 700 ppm and calcium levels were 31 400– 56 500 ppm. In addition, samples were very sulphuric, with sulphate and sulphite levels exceeding 2157 ppm and 5.54 ppm, respectively. Ferric ions concentrations were <0.2 ppm, while nitrate, ammonium and nitrite levels were <2 ppm, 1.5 ppm and 0.05 ppm, respectively. Archaea dominated the surface and the bottom, while bacteria were most common at 20–60 cm. Extremely halophilic archaea and bacteria including Halorhabdus spp. Halorubrum spp., Salinibacter iranicus and Halorhodospira halophila were identified in all samples. Moreover, the relative abundance of Halanaerobiaceae accounted for 22% of the species in the top of the crater. S. iranicus and species belonging to Halorhabdus and Halorubrum that were identified between 60 and 100 cm could be considered as extreme organisms.