Good to the bone: microbial community thrives within bone cavities of a bison carcass at Yellowstone National Park

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SummaryThe discovery of unanticipated microbial diversity in remote, often hostile environments has led to a greater appreciation of the complexity and richness of the natural world. Yellowstone National Park (YNP) has long been a focus of work on taxa that inhabit extreme environments. Here we report the finding of microbial flora that inhabit an unexpected niche: the cavities of bone remnants from a bison carcass in Norris Geyser Basin in YNP. Although bleached white on the surface, the bone cavities are bright green due to the presence ofStichococcus-like trebouxiophyte green algae. The cavities also harbour different fungi and bacteria.Stichococcusspecies are common lichen photobionts and theThelebolalesfungi present in the bone cavities have previously been found in association with animal remains. Scanning electron microscope analysis suggests the fungi and algae do not form lichen-like associations in the bone. Rather these taxa and the bacteria appear to be opportunists that have colonized an isolated oasis that provides nutrients and protection from desiccation and UV radiation.

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