Evidence for geographic isolation and signs of endemism within a protistan morphospecies
The possible existence of endemism among microorganisms resulting from and preserved by geographic isolation is one of the most controversial topics in microbial ecology. We isolated 31 strains of "Spumella-like" flagellates from remote sampling sites from all continents, including Antarctica. These and another 23 isolates from a former study were characterized morphologically and by small-subunit rRNA gene sequence analysis and tested for the maximum temperature tolerance. Only a minority of the Spumella morpho- and phylotypes from the geographically isolated Antarctic continent follow the worldwide trend of a linear correlation between ambient (air) temperature during strain isolation and heat tolerance of the isolates. A high percentage of the Antarctic isolates, but none of the isolates from locations on all other continents, were obligate psychrophilic, although some of the latter were isolated at low ambient temperatures. The drastic deviation of Antarctic representatives of Spumella from the global trend of temperature adaptation of this morphospecies provides strong evidence for geographic transport restriction of a microorganism; i.e., Antarctic protistan communities are less influenced by transport of protists to and from the Antarctic continent than by local adaptation, a subtle form of endemism.
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