Microbial Ecology

, Volume 64, Issue 1, pp 162–170 | Cite as

Phototrophic Phylotypes Dominate Mesothermal Microbial Mats Associated with Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park

  • Kimberly A. Ross
  • Leah M. Feazel
  • Charles E. Robertson
  • Babu Z. Fathepure
  • Katherine E. Wright
  • Rebecca M. Turk-MacLeod
  • Mallory M. Chan
  • Nicole L. Held
  • John R. Spear
  • Norman R. PaceEmail author
Environmental Microbiology


The mesothermal outflow zones (50–65°C) of geothermal springs often support an extensive zone of green and orange laminated microbial mats. In order to identify and compare the microbial inhabitants of morphologically similar green–orange mats from chemically and geographically distinct springs, we generated and analyzed small-subunit ribosomal RNA (rRNA) gene amplicons from six mesothermal mats (four previously unexamined) in Yellowstone National Park. Between three and six bacterial phyla dominated each mat. While many sequences bear the highest identity to previously isolated phototrophic genera belonging to the Cyanobacteria, Chloroflexi, and Chlorobi phyla, there is also frequent representation of uncultured, unclassified members of these groups. Some genus-level representatives of these dominant phyla were found in all mats, while others were unique to a single mat. Other groups detected at high frequencies include candidate divisions (such as the OP candidate clades) with no cultured representatives or complete genomes available. In addition, rRNA genes related to the recently isolated and characterized photosynthetic acidobacterium “Candidatus Chloracidobacterium thermophilum” were detected in most mats. In contrast to microbial mats from well-studied hypersaline environments, the mesothermal mats in this study accrue less biomass and are substantially less diverse, but have a higher proportion of known phototrophic organisms. This study provides sequences appropriate for accurate phylogenetic classification and expands the molecular phylogenetic survey of Yellowstone microbial mats.


Synechococcus Chloroflexi Yellowstone National Park Geothermal Spring Phylogenetic Composition 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors acknowledge Christie Hendrix at the Yellowstone Center for Resources for research permits to J.R.S. and N.R.P. Funding for J.R.S. was provided by the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research ( Funding for N.R.P. was provided by the NASA Astrobiology Institute at the University of Colorado-Boulder ( In addition, support was provided by grants to N.L.H. and M.M.C. from Howard Hughes Medical Institute ( for outstanding undergraduate research at the University of Colorado-Boulder ( Support to K.A.R. and R.M.T. was provided by institutional funds from the University of Colorado-Boulder to foster training in RNA science. We thank members of the Pace Lab for discussion and critique of the manuscript, as well as Antonio González of the Knight Lab (CU-Boulder) for consultation on statistical analyses.

Supplementary material

248_2012_12_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (52 kb)
Online resource 1 Table showing number of layers derived from each mat, layer color, and sequences generated from each layer (PDF 52 kb)
248_2012_12_Fig4_ESM.jpg (105 kb)
Online resource 2

Matrix displaying Morisita–Horn values for pairwise comparisons of mat communities. Similarity score color is indicated by a bar at the right. Matrix is arranged such that Octopus Spring is compared to all other mats in MH-score descending order (JPEG 105 kb)

248_2012_12_MOESM2_ESM.tiff (95 kb)
High-resolution image (TIFF 95 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kimberly A. Ross
    • 1
  • Leah M. Feazel
    • 1
    • 2
  • Charles E. Robertson
    • 1
  • Babu Z. Fathepure
    • 3
  • Katherine E. Wright
    • 1
  • Rebecca M. Turk-MacLeod
    • 1
    • 4
  • Mallory M. Chan
    • 1
    • 5
  • Nicole L. Held
    • 1
    • 6
  • John R. Spear
    • 7
  • Norman R. Pace
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental BiologyUniversity of ColoradoBoulderUSA
  2. 2.Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of MedicineUniversity of Colorado DenverAuroraUSA
  3. 3.Department of Microbiology & Molecular GeneticsOklahoma State UniversityStillwaterUSA
  4. 4.FAS Center for Systems BiologyHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA
  5. 5.School of MedicineUniversity of Colorado DenverAuroraUSA
  6. 6.Department of MicrobiologyUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbanaUSA
  7. 7.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringColorado School of MinesGoldenUSA

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