Indian Journal of Microbiology

, Volume 56, Issue 1, pp 35–45 | Cite as

Microbial Diversity in Soil, Sand Dune and Rock Substrates of the Thar Monsoon Desert, India

  • Subramanya Rao
  • Yuki Chan
  • Donnabella C. Bugler-Lacap
  • Ashish Bhatnagar
  • Monica Bhatnagar
  • Stephen B. Pointing
Original Article


A culture-independent diversity assessment of archaea, bacteria and fungi in the Thar Desert in India was made. Six locations in Ajmer, Jaisalmer, Jaipur and Jodhupur included semi-arid soils, arid soils, arid sand dunes, plus arid cryptoendolithic substrates. A real-time quantitative PCR approach revealed that bacteria dominated soils and cryptoendoliths, whilst fungi dominated sand dunes. The archaea formed a minor component of all communities. Comparison of rRNA-defined community structure revealed that substrate and climate rather than location were the most parsimonious predictors. Sequence-based identification of 1240 phylotypes revealed that most taxa were common desert microorganisms. Semi-arid soils were dominated by actinobacteria and alpha proteobacteria, arid soils by chloroflexi and alpha proteobacteria, sand dunes by ascomycete fungi and cryptoendoliths by cyanobacteria. Climatic variables that best explained this distribution were mean annual rainfall and maximum annual temperature. Substrate variables that contributed most to observed diversity patterns were conductivity, soluble salts, Ca2+ and pH. This represents an important addition to the inventory of desert microbiota, novel insight into the abiotic drivers of community assembly, and the first report of biodiversity in a monsoon desert system.


Cyanobacteria Desert Fungi Sand dune Soil 


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Copyright information

© Association of Microbiologists of India 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Subramanya Rao
    • 1
  • Yuki Chan
    • 1
  • Donnabella C. Bugler-Lacap
    • 1
  • Ashish Bhatnagar
    • 2
  • Monica Bhatnagar
    • 2
  • Stephen B. Pointing
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for Applied Ecology New Zealand, School of Applied SciencesAuckland University of TechnologyAucklandNew Zealand
  2. 2.Department of MicrobiologyMaharshi Dayanand Saraswathi UniversityAjmerIndia

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