Date: 27 Oct 2011

The Mycobiota of the Salterns

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Abstract

Solar salterns are constructed as shallow multi-pond systems for the production of halite through evaporation of seawater. The main feature of salterns is the discontinuous salinity gradient that provides a range of well-defined habitats with increasing salinities, from moderate to hypersaline. These present one of the most extreme environments, because of the low levels of biologically available water and the toxic concentrations of ions. Up to the year 2000, hypersaline environments were considered to be populated almost exclusively by prokaryotic microorganisms till fungi were reported to be active inhabitants of solar salterns. Since then, numerous fungal species have been described in hypersaline waters around the world. The mycobiota of salterns is represented by different species of the genus Cladosporium and the related meristematic melanized black yeasts, of non-melanized yeasts, of the filamentous genera Penicillium and Aspergillus and their teleomorphic forms (Eurotium and Emericella), and of the basidiomycetous genus Wallemia. Among these, two species became new model organisms for studying the mechanisms of extreme salt tolerance: the extremely halotolerant ascomycetous black yeast Hortaea werneckii and the obligate halophilic basidiomycete Wallemia ichthyophaga.