Survival of Filamentous Fungi in Hypersaline Dead Sea Water
A variety of filamentous fungi have recently been isolated from the Dead Sea (340 g/L total dissolved salts). To assess the extent to which such fungi can survive for prolonged periods in Dead Sea water, we examined the survival of both spores and mycelia in undiluted Dead Sea water and in Dead Sea water diluted to different degrees with distilled water. Mycelia of Aspergillus versicolor and Chaetomium globosum strains isolated from the Dead Sea remained viable for up to 8 weeks in undiluted Dead Sea water. Four Dead Sea isolates (A. versicolor, Eurotium herbariorum, Gymnascella marismortui, and C. globosum) retained their viability in Dead Sea water diluted to 80% during the 12 weeks of the experiment. Mycelia of all species survived for the full term of the experiment in Dead Sea water diluted to 50% and 10% of its original salinity. Comparison of the survival of Dead Sea species and closely related isolates obtained from other locations showed prolonged viability of the strains obtained from the Dead Sea. Spores of isolates obtained from the terrestrial shore of the Dead Sea generally proved less tolerant to suspension in undiluted Dead Sea water than spores of species isolated from the water column. Spores of the species isolated from the control sites had lost their viability in undiluted Dead Sea water within 12 weeks. However, with the exception of Emericella spores, which showed poor survival, a substantial fraction of the spores of Dead Sea fungal isolates remained viable for that period. The difference in survival rate between spores and mycelia of isolates of the same species points to the existence of adapted halotolerant and/or halophilic fungi in the Dead Sea.
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