Using metabarcoding to assess Viridiplantae sequence diversity present in Antarctic glacial ice
Antarctica contains most of the glacial ice on the planet, a habitat that is largely unexplored by biologists. Recent warming in parts of Antarctica, particularly the Antarctic Peninsula region, is leading to widespread glacial retreat, releasing melt water and, potentially, contained biological material and propagules. In this study, we used a DNA metabarcoding approach to characterize Viridiplantae DNA present in Antarctic glacial ice. Ice samples from six glaciers in the South Shetland Islands and Antarctic Peninsula were analysed, detecting the presence of DNA representing a total of 16 taxa including 11 Chlorophyta (green algae) and five Magnoliophyta (flowering plants). The green algae may indicate the presence of a viable algal community in the ice or simply of preserved DNA, and the sequence diversity assigned included representatives of Chlorophyta not previously recorded in Antarctica. The presence of flowering plant DNA is most likely to be associated with pollen or tissue fragments introduced by humans.
Authors: Câmara, Paulo E.A.S., Menezes, Graciele C.A., Pinto, Otavio H.B., Silva, Micheline C., Convey, Peter ORCID record for Peter Convey, Rosa, Luiz H.