Transition boundaries for protistan species turnover in hypersaline waters of different biogeographic regions

Sabine Filker, Dominik Forster, Lea Weinisch, Merit Mora-Ruiz, Bernardo González, María Eugenia Farías, Ramon Rosselló-Móra, Thorsten Stoeck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


The identification of environmental barriers which govern species distribution is a fundamental concern in ecology. Even though salt was previously identified as a major transition boundary for micro- and macroorganisms alike, the salinities causing species turnover in protistan communities are unknown. We investigated 4.5 million high-quality protistan metabarcodes (V4 region of the SSU rDNA) obtained from 24 shallow salt ponds (salinities 4%–44%) from South America and Europe. Statistical analyses of protistan community profiles identified four salinity classes, which strongly selected for different protistan communities: 4–9%, 14–24%, 27–36% and 38–44%. The proportion of organisms unknown to science is highest in the 14–24% salinity class, showing that environments within this salinity range are an unappreciated reservoir of as yet undiscovered organisms. Distinct higher-rank taxon groups dominated in the four salinity classes in terms of diversity. As increasing salinities require different cellular responses to cope with salt, our results suggest that different evolutionary lineages of protists have evolved distinct haloadaptation strategies. Salinity appears to be a stronger selection factor for the structuring of protistan communities than geography. Yet, we find a higher degree of endemism in shallow salt ponds compared with less isolated ecosystems such as the open ocean. Thus, rules for biogeographic structuring of protistan communities are not universal, but depend on the ecosystem under consideration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3186-3200
Number of pages15
JournalEnvironmental Microbiology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2017


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