Analysis of the bacteriorhodopsin-producing haloarchaea reveals a core community that is stable over time in the salt crystallizers of Eilat, Israel
Stability of microbial communities can impact the ability of dispersed cells to colonize a new habitat. Saturated brines and their halophile communities are presumed to be steady state systems due to limited environmental perturbations. In this study, the bacteriorhodopsin-containing fraction of the haloarchaeal community from Eilat salt crystallizer ponds was sampled five times over 3 years. Analyses revealed the existence of a constant core as several OTUs were found repeatedly over the length of the study: OTUs comprising 52 % of the total cloned and sequenced PCR amplicons were found in every sample, and OTUs comprising 89 % of the total sequences were found in more than one, and often more than two samples. LIBSHUFF and UNIFRAC analyses showed statistical similarity between samples and Spearman’s coefficient denoted significant correlations between OTU pairs, indicating non-random patterns in abundance and co-occurrence of detected OTUs. Further, changes in the detected OTUs were statistically linked to deviations in salinity. We interpret these results as indicating the existence of an ever-present core bacteriorhodopsin-containing Eilat crystallizer community that fluctuates in population densities, which are controlled by salinity rather than the extinction of some OTUs and their replacement through immigration and colonization.