Aquatic thermal reservoirs of microbial life in a remote and extreme high andean hydrothermal system

Vilma Pérez, Johanna Cortés, Francisca Marchant, Cristina Dorador, Verónica Molina, Marcela Cornejo-d’ottone, Klaudia Hernández, Wade Jeffrey, Sergio Barahona, Martha B. Hengst

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4 Scopus citations


Hydrothermal systems are ideal to understand how microbial communities cope with challenging conditions. Lirima, our study site, is a polyextreme, high-altitude, hydrothermal ecosystem located in the Chilean Andean highlands. Herein, we analyze the benthic communities of three nearby springs in a gradient of temperature (42–72 °C represented by stations P42, P53, and P72) and pH, and we characterize their microbial diversity by using bacteria 16S rRNA (V4) gene metabarcoding and 16S rRNA gene clone libraries (bacteria and archaea). Bacterial clone libraries of P42 and P53 springs showed that the community composition was mainly represented by phototrophic bacteria (Chlorobia, 3%, Cyanobacteria 3%, at P42; Chlorobia 5%, and Chloroflexi 5% at P53), Firmicutes (32% at P42 and 43% at P53) and Gammaproteobacteria (13% at P42 and 29% at P53). Furthermore, bacterial communities that were analyzed by 16S rRNA gene metabarcoding were characterized by an overall predominance of Chloroflexi in springs with lower temperatures (33% at P42), followed by Firmicutes in hotter springs (50% at P72). The archaeal diversity of P42 and P53 were represented by taxa belonging to Crenarchaeota, Diapherotrites, Nanoarchaeota, Hadesarchaeota, Thaumarchaeota, and Euryarchaeota. The microbial diversity of the Lirima hydrothermal system is represented by groups from deep branches of the tree of life, suggesting this ecosystem as a reservoir of primitive life and a key system to study the processes that shaped the evolution of the biosphere.

Original languageEnglish
Article number208
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2020


  • 16S rRNA
  • Archaea
  • Lirima
  • Microbial diversity
  • NGS
  • Terrestrial hydrothermal systems
  • Thermophiles


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