The evolutionary relationships of 10 Antarctic cyanobacterial strains of the order Oscillatoriales isolated from King George and Deception Islands, South Shetland Islands were studied by a polyphasic approach (morphology, 16S rRNA and internal transcribed spacer sequences). The studied taxa are characteristic of coastal Antarctic biotopes, where they form distinct populations and ecologically delimited communities. They were isolated from terrestrial habitats: microbial mats in seepages; crusts on soil, rocks, bones and mosses; mud, sometimes close to bird colonies; and from guano. Based on major phenotypic features, the strains were divided into four distinct morphotypes: Leptolyngbya borchgrevinkii (A), Leptolyngbya frigida (B), Microcoleus sp. (C) and Wilmottia murrayi (D). This morphological identification was in agreement with the phylogenetic relationships. For the first time, the 16S rRNA gene sequence of a strain corresponding to the L. borchgrevinkii morphotype was determined. Morphotype B is most related to sequences assigned to L. frigida isolated from microbial mats of coastal lakes in East Antarctica. Morphotype C belongs to a cluster including strains with morphotypes corresponding to Microcoleus attenuatus, Microcoleus favosus and Microcoleus sp., which are from Antarctica and other continents. Morphotype D is grouped with sequences assigned to W. murrayi mostly isolated from Antarctica.
One sentence summary: A polyphasic study of 10 cyanobacterial strains of characteristic species of Antarctic terrestrial environments to link morphological, molecular and ecological features.