Fluid inclusions from the deep Dead Sea sediment provide new insights on Holocene extreme microbial life

This is a Preprint and has not been peer reviewed. The published version of this Preprint is available: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.quascirev.2019.03.020. This is version 1 of this Preprint.

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Supplementary Files

Camille Thomas , Daniel Ariztegui 


The Dead Sea Deep Drilling Project allowed to retrieve a continuous sedimentary record spanning the two last glacial cycles. This unique archive, in such an extreme environment, has allowed for the development of new proxies and the refinement of already available paleoenvironmental studies. In particular, the interaction of the lake and sediment biosphere with elements and minerals that constitute paleoclimatic proxies has been emphasized. Although life is pushed to its extremes in the Dead Sea environment, several studies have highlighted the impact of microbial activity on this harsh milieu. The paradox is that the identity and means of adaptation of these organisms are largely ignored. We also know relatively little on the way this extreme ecosystem has evolved with time, and how it will react to growing pressure. Constraining this gap should allow to gain precision on the use of paleoenvironmental studies, and also assess the impact of human activity and climate change on a rare ecosystem. In this study, we use halite, the main evaporitic phase during arid periods in the Dead Sea basin and extract ancient DNA from their fluid inclusions, in order to characterize the ancient life of the Holocene Dead Sea. With the aid of an accurately designed protocol, we obtained fossil bacterial and archaeal 16S rRNA gene sequences that illustrate that the main microbial actors of the present Dead Sea have been present in the lake for a relatively long period, emphasizing the stability of this extreme environment. Additionally, we show that current phylotypes of the deep biosphere are present within the obtained fluid inclusions sequences, which would support seeding of the deep biosphere from the water column. Finally, we shed light on putative new actors of the sulfur cycle involving both archaea and bacteria, which could play an unexpected role in the reduction of sulfur species. Together, these data provide new research avenues for both geologists and biologists working in this extreme environment, and help understanding the evolution of the Dead Sea ecosystem with time.




Biology, Earth Sciences, Environmental Microbiology and Microbial Ecology Life Sciences, Life Sciences, Microbiology, Paleobiology, Physical Sciences and Mathematics


Holocene, Dead Sea, extremophile, fluid inclusion, fossil DNA, halite, halophile


Published: 2018-07-24 04:58


CC BY Attribution 4.0 International