This study used PCR-based molecular biological identification techniques to examine the biodiversity of air sampled over Rothera Point (Antarctic Peninsula). 16S rDNA fragments of 132 clones were sequenced and identified to reveal a range of microorganisms, including cyanobacteria, actinomycetes, diatom plastids and other uncultivated bacterial groups. Matches for microorganisms that would be considered evidence of human contamination were not found. The closest matches for many of the sequences were from Antarctic clones already in the databases or from other cold environments. Whilst the majority of the sequences are likely to be of local origin, back trajectory calculations showed that the sampled air may have travelled over the Antarctic Peninsula immediately prior to reaching the sample site. As a result, a proportion of the detected biota may be of non-local origin. Conventional identification methods based on propagule morphology or culture are often inadequate due to poor preservation of characteristic features or loss of viability during airborne transfer. The application of molecular biological techniques in describing airborne microbial biodiversity represents a major step forward in the study of airborne biota over Antarctica and in the distribution of microorganisms and propagules in the natural environment.
|Cellular and Molecular Biology
|Published - 6 Nov 2004