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    STUDIA BIOLOGIA - Issue no. 1 / 2019  
         
  Article:   THE DIVERSITY OF PROTIST COMMUNITIES IN INLAND SALINE LAKES AND RIVERS OF THE VOLGA-URAL STEPPES (RUSSIA).

Authors:  ANDREY PLOTNIKOV, ELENA SELIVANOVA, DARIA POSHVINA, YURI KHLOPKO.
 
       
         
  Abstract:  Protists are ubiquitous aquatic unicellular eukaryotes playing a key role in microbial food webs of saline water ecosystems. However, there are few descriptions of the diversity of protist communities inhabiting inland saline water bodies. We analysed the taxonomic composition and diversity of protists in inland saline lakes and rivers located in the pre-Ural and the Lower Volga steppes (Russia). The salinity of the sites varied from 10 to 300 g/L. To characterize the protist diversity we used a comprehensive approach, including microscopic observation, cultivation, and high-throughput sequencing (HTS) of the 18S rRNA gene. The taxonomic structure of the protist communities in the studied lakes and rivers mainly depended on their salinity and geographic location. With increasing salinity, taxonomic richness and diversity of protists in the saline inland waters decreased at all taxonomic levels, from species up to phyla. Ordination of the eukaryotic communities by principal component analysis showed clustering of samples with high salinity (285-300 g/L), whereas other samples with lower salinity were not grouped clearly. A negligible number of shared genera in the studied water bodies indicated the unique taxonomic composition of each protist community. A high percentage of novel phylotypes was revealed. Extremely halotolerant and halophilic heterolobosean amoeboflagellates were found to be a specific heterotrophic component of the studied protist communities. Morphology, physiology, and molecular phylogeny of new heterolobosean taxa were characterised. The comprehensive approach, combining HTS of the 18S rRNA gene with classical protistological techniques, provides a valid estimation of protist diversity in inland saline water bodies.

Keywords: heterolobosea, high-throughput sequencing, inland saline water body, protists, protist community.
 
         
     
         
         
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