Microbial Ecology

, Volume 55, Issue 3, pp 453–465 | Cite as

Cyanobacterial Diversity and Halotolerance in a Variable Hypersaline Environment

  • Andrea E. Kirkwood
  • Julie A. Buchheim
  • Mark A. Buchheim
  • William J. Henley
Original Article


The Great Salt Plains (GSP) in north-central Oklahoma, USA is an expansive salt flat (∼65 km2) that is part of the federally protected Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge. The GSP serves as an ideal environment to study the microbial diversity of a terrestrial, hypersaline system that experiences wide fluctuations in freshwater influx and diel temperature. Our study assessed cyanobacterial diversity at the GSP by focusing on the taxonomic and physiological diversity of GSP isolates, and the 16S rRNA phylogenetic diversity of isolates and environmental clones from three sites (north, central, and south). Taxonomic diversity of isolates was limited to a few genera (mostly Phormidium and Geitlerinema), but physiological diversity based on halotolerance ranges was strikingly more diverse, even between strains of the same phylotype. The phylogenetic tree revealed diversity that spanned a number of cyanobacterial lineages, although diversity at each site was dominated by only a few phylotypes. Unlike other hypersaline systems, a number of environmental clones from the GSP were members of the heterocystous lineage. Although a number of cyanobacterial isolates were close matches with prevalent environmental clones, it is not certain if these clones reflect the same halotolerance ranges of their matching isolates. This caveat is based on the notable disparities we found between strains of the same phylotype and their inherent halotolerance. Our findings support the hypothesis that variable or poikilotrophic environments promote diversification, and in particular, select for variation in ecotype more than phylotype.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrea E. Kirkwood
    • 1
    • 3
  • Julie A. Buchheim
    • 2
    • 4
  • Mark A. Buchheim
    • 2
  • William J. Henley
    • 1
  1. 1.Botany DepartmentOklahoma State UniversityStillwaterUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biological Science and the Mervin Bovaird Institute for Molecular Biology and BiotechnologyThe University of TulsaTulsaUSA
  3. 3.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of CalgaryNW CalgaryCanada
  4. 4.Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, Center for Health SciencesOklahoma State UniversityTulsaUSA

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