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Shotgun metagenomics reveal a diverse assemblage of protists in a model Antarctic soil ecosystem

Thompson, Andrew; Geisen, Stefan; Adams, Byron J.

Abstract

The soils of the McMurdo Dry Valleys (MDV) of Antarctica are established models for understanding fundamental processes in soil ecosystem functioning (e.g. ecological tipping points, community structuring, and nutrient cycling) because the extreme physical environment drastically reduces biodiversity and ecological complexity. Understanding the functioning of MDV soils requires inā€depth knowledge of the diversity of MDV soil species. Protists, which contribute significantly to soil ecosystem functioning worldwide, remain poorly characterized in the MDV. To better assess the diversity of MDV protists, we performed shotgun metagenomics on 18 sites representing a variety of landscape features and edaphic variables. Our results show MDV soil protists are diverse at both the genus (155 of 281 eukaryote genera) and family (120) levels, but comprise only 6% of eukaryotic reads. Protists are structured by moisture, total N, and distance from the local coast, and possess limited richness in arid (<5% moisture) and at high elevation sites, known drivers of communities in the MDV. High relative diversity and broad distribution of protists in our study promotes these organisms as key members of MDV soil microbiomes and the MDV as a useful system for understanding the contribution of soil protists to the structure of soil microbiomes.