Microbial communities of ancient seeds derived from permanently frozen Pleistocene deposits

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Abstract

Microbial communities from the surface of ancient seeds of higher plants and embedding frozen material dated to the late Pleistocene (formed about 30 thousand years ago) were studied by various methods: scanning electron microscopy, epifluorescence microscopy, and inoculation of nutrient media, followed by identification of isolated cultures. Both prokaryotic and eukaryotic microorganisms were found on the surface of ancient seeds. The total quantity of bacterial cells determined by direct counting and dilution plating (CFU) for the samples of ancient seeds exceeded the value in the embedding frozen material by one to two orders of magnitude. This pattern was not maintained for mycelial fungi; their quantity in the embedding material was also rather high. A significant difference was revealed between the microbial communities of ancient seeds and embedding frozen material. These findings suggest that ancient plant seeds are a particular ecological niche for microorganisms existing in permafrost and require individual detailed study.

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