Decades of research into the Bacteria and Archaea living in geothermal spring ecosystems have yielded great insight into the diversity of life and organismal adaptations to extreme environmental conditions. Surprisingly, while microbial eukaryotes (protists) are also ubiquitous in many environments, their diversity across geothermal springs has mostly been ignored. We used high-throughput sequencing to illuminate the diversity and structure of microbial eukaryotic communities found in 160 geothermal springs with broad ranges in temperature and pH across the Taupō Volcanic Zone in New Zealand. Protistan communities were moderately predictable in composition and varied most strongly across gradients in pH and temperature. Moreover, this variation mirrored patterns observed for bacterial and archaeal communities across the same spring samples, highlighting that there are similar ecological constraints across the tree of life. While extreme pH values were associated with declining protist diversity, high temperature springs harbored substantial amounts of protist diversity. Although protists are often overlooked in geothermal springs and other extreme environments, our results indicate that such environments can host distinct and diverse protistan communities.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics