Active eukaryotes in microbialites from Highborne Cay, Bahamas, and Hamelin Pool (Shark Bay), Australia. Academic Article uri icon


  • Microbialites are organosedimentary structures that are formed through the interaction of benthic microbial communities and sediments and include mineral precipitation. These lithifying microbial mat structures include stromatolites and thrombolites. Exuma Sound in the Bahamas, and Hamelin Pool in Shark Bay, Western Australia, are two locations where significant stands of modern microbialites exist. Although prokaryotic diversity in these structures is reasonably well documented, little is known about the eukaryotic component of these communities and their potential to influence sedimentary fabrics through grazing, binding and burrowing activities. Accordingly, comparisons of eukaryotic communities in modern stromatolitic and thrombolitic mats can potentially provide insight into the coexistence of both laminated and clotted mat structures in close proximity to one another. Here we examine this possibility by comparing eukaryotic diversity based on Sanger and high-throughput pyrosequencing of small subunit ribosomal RNA (18S rRNA) genes. Analyses were based on total RNA extracts as template to minimize input from inactive or deceased organisms. Results identified diverse eukaryotic communities particularly stramenopiles, Alveolata, Metazoa, Amoebozoa and Rhizaria within different mat types at both locations, as well as abundant and diverse signatures of eukaryotes with <80% sequence similarity to sequences in GenBank. This suggests the presence of significant novel eukaryotic diversity, particularly in hypersaline Hamelin Pool. There was evidence of vertical structuring of protist populations and foraminiferal diversity was highest in bioturbated/clotted thrombolite mats of Highborne Cay.

publication date

  • February 2014