Yeasts in high Arctic glaciers:: The discovery of a new habitat for eukaryotic microorganisms

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Recently a new habitat for microbial life has been discovered at the base of polythermal glaciers. In ice from these subglacial environments so far only non-photosynthetic bacterial communities were discovered, but no eukaryotic microorganisms. We found high numbers of yeast cells, amounting to a maximum of 4,000 CFU ml−1 of melt ice, in four different high Arctic glaciers. Twenty-two distinct species were isolated, including two new yeast species. Basidiomycetes predominated, among which Cryptococcus liquefaciens was the dominant species (ca. 90% of total). Other frequently occurring species were Cryptococcus albidus, Cryptococcus magnus, Cryptococcus saitoi and Rhodotorula mucilaginosa. The dominant yeast species were psychrotolerant, halotolerant, freeze-thaw resistant, unable to form mycelium, relatively small-sized and able to utilize a wide range of carbon and nitrogen sources. This is the first report on the presence of yeast populations in subglacial ice.

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