A rich eukaryotic planktonic community exists in high-mountain lakes despite the diluted, oligotrophic and cold, harsh prevailing conditions. Attempts of an overarching appraisal have been traditionally hampered by observational limitations of small, colorless, and soft eukaryotes. We aimed to uncover the regional eukaryotic biodiversity of a mountain lakes district to obtain general conclusions on diversity patterns, dominance, geographic diversification, and food-web players common to oligotrophic worldwide distributed freshwater systems. An unprecedented survey of 227 high-altitude lakes comprising large environmental gradients was carried out using Illumina massive tag sequencing of the 18S rRNA gene. We observed a large Chrysophyceae dominance in richness, abundance and novelty, and unveiled an unexpected richness in heterotrophic phagotrophs and parasites. In particular, Cercozoa and Chytridiomycota showed diversity features similar to the dominant autotrophic groups. The prominent beta-dispersion shown by parasites suggests highly specific interactions and a relevant role in food webs. Interestingly, the freshwater Pyrenean metacommunity contained more diverse specific populations than its closest marine oligotrophic equivalent, with consistently higher beta-diversity. The relevance of unseen groups opens new perspectives for the better understanding of planktonic food webs. Mountain lakes, with remarkable environmental idiosyncrasies, may be suitable environments for the genetic diversification of microscopic eukaryotic life forms.
Scientific Reports – Springer Journals
Published: Mar 13, 2018
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