, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 5-14

Interrelationships between Dunaliella and halophilic prokaryotes in saltern crystallizer ponds

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Abstract

Thanks to their often very high population densities and their simple community structure, saltern crystallizer ponds form ideal sites to study the behavior of halophilic microorganisms in their natural environment at saturating salt concentrations. The microbial community is dominated by square red halophilic Archaea, recently isolated and described as Haloquadratum walsbyi, extremely halophilic red rod-shaped Bacteria of the genus Salinibacter, and the unicellular green alga Dunaliella as the primary producer. We review here, the information available on the microbial community structure of the saltern crystallizer brines and the interrelationships between the main components of their biota. As Dunaliella produces massive amounts of glycerol to provide osmotic stabilization, glycerol is often postulated to be the most important source of organic carbon for the heterotrophic prokaryotes in hypersaline ecosystems. We assess here, the current evidence for the possible importance of glycerol and other carbon sources in the nutrition of the Archaea and the Bacteria, the relative contribution of halophilic Bacteria and Archaea to the heterotrophic activity in the brines, and other factors that determine the nature of the microbial communities that thrive in the salt-saturated brines of saltern crystallizer ponds.

Communicated by D. A. Cowan.
Three-letter abbreviations for names of genera of Halobacteriaceae conform the recommendations of the ICSP Subcommittee on the Taxonomy of Halobacteriaceae.