Event Title

The Biogeography of Great Salt Lake Haloarchaea: Testing the Hypothesis of Avian Mechanical Carriers

Presenter Information

Erin Tabish, Westminster College

Location

Orbital ATK Conference Center

Start Date

5-7-2018 10:20 AM

Description

To explain the vast diversity of microorganisms and their overlapping geographic distributions, Baas Becking famously postulated that “everything is everywhere, but the environment selects.” Recent studies have disputed this idea and suggest other mechanisms of distribution. Halophilic archaea inhabit hypersaline ecosystems all around our planet, and they are highly adapted to desiccating conditions, surviving in salt crystals over long time periods. Genetically similar strains have been found in locales that are geographically isolated from one another. We sought to test the hypothesis that small salt crystals could be carried on bird feathers and that birds were the driving force of these distributions through their migration patterns. We collected salt from the shores of the north arm of Great Salt Lake (GSL), then isolated microorganisms from the salt. Subsequently, microorganisms were isolated from salt crystals located on pelican feathers from Gunnison Island in the north arm of GSL. Archaea isolated from the shore crystals were primarily Halorubrum genus, with a small portion being Haloarcula genus. Archaea from the feathers showed to be strictly Haloarcula. These species were identified through PCR amplification and sequencing of the 16S RNA gene and compared to similar strains in the GeneBank database. We found there to be five geographical locations that Halorubrum and Haloarcula had in common as well as GSL. To evaluate the hypothesis that nearly identical Halorubrum strains exist in salty sites around the globe due to “hitchhiking” on the exterior of birds, we compared these sites against different bird migration patterns that included GSL as a stop-over.

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May 7th, 10:20 AM

The Biogeography of Great Salt Lake Haloarchaea: Testing the Hypothesis of Avian Mechanical Carriers

Orbital ATK Conference Center

To explain the vast diversity of microorganisms and their overlapping geographic distributions, Baas Becking famously postulated that “everything is everywhere, but the environment selects.” Recent studies have disputed this idea and suggest other mechanisms of distribution. Halophilic archaea inhabit hypersaline ecosystems all around our planet, and they are highly adapted to desiccating conditions, surviving in salt crystals over long time periods. Genetically similar strains have been found in locales that are geographically isolated from one another. We sought to test the hypothesis that small salt crystals could be carried on bird feathers and that birds were the driving force of these distributions through their migration patterns. We collected salt from the shores of the north arm of Great Salt Lake (GSL), then isolated microorganisms from the salt. Subsequently, microorganisms were isolated from salt crystals located on pelican feathers from Gunnison Island in the north arm of GSL. Archaea isolated from the shore crystals were primarily Halorubrum genus, with a small portion being Haloarcula genus. Archaea from the feathers showed to be strictly Haloarcula. These species were identified through PCR amplification and sequencing of the 16S RNA gene and compared to similar strains in the GeneBank database. We found there to be five geographical locations that Halorubrum and Haloarcula had in common as well as GSL. To evaluate the hypothesis that nearly identical Halorubrum strains exist in salty sites around the globe due to “hitchhiking” on the exterior of birds, we compared these sites against different bird migration patterns that included GSL as a stop-over.