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Life 2013, 3(1), 189-210; doi:10.3390/life3010189

Evolution of Microbial “Streamer” Growths in an Acidic, Metal-Contaminated Stream Draining an Abandoned Underground Copper Mine

1
College of Natural Sciences, Bangor University, Deiniol Road, Bangor, LL57 2UW, UK
2
Department of Ecology and Environmental Science, Umeå University, SE-901 87 Umeå, Sweden
3
Department of Life and Environmental Sciences, Università Politecnica delle Marche, Via Brecce Bianche, 60131 Ancona, Italy
4
College of Natural Sciences, Bangor University, Deiniol Road, Bangor, LL57 2UW, UK
5
College of Natural Sciences, Bangor University, Deiniol Road, Bangor, LL57 2UW, UK
6
College of Natural Sciences, Bangor University, Deiniol Road, Bangor, LL57 2UW, UK
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 29 November 2012 / Revised: 22 January 2013 / Accepted: 23 January 2013 / Published: 7 February 2013
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Extremophiles and Extreme Environments)
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Abstract

A nine year study was carried out on the evolution of macroscopic “acid streamer” growths in acidic, metal-rich mine water from the point of construction of a new channel to drain an abandoned underground copper mine. The new channel became rapidly colonized by acidophilic bacteria: two species of autotrophic iron-oxidizers (Acidithiobacillus ferrivorans and “Ferrovum myxofaciens”) and a heterotrophic iron-oxidizer (a novel genus/species with the proposed name “Acidithrix ferrooxidans”). The same bacteria dominated the acid streamer communities for the entire nine year period, with the autotrophic species accounting for ~80% of the micro-organisms in the streamer growths (as determined by terminal restriction enzyme fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP) analysis). Biodiversity of the acid streamers became somewhat greater in time, and included species of heterotrophic acidophiles that reduce ferric iron (Acidiphilium, Acidobacterium, Acidocella and gammaproteobacterium WJ2) and other autotrophic iron-oxidizers (Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans and Leptospirillum ferrooxidans). The diversity of archaea in the acid streamers was far more limited; relatively few clones were obtained, all of which were very distantly related to known species of euryarchaeotes. Some differences were apparent between the acid streamer community and planktonic-phase bacteria. This study has provided unique insights into the evolution of an extremophilic microbial community, and identified several novel species of acidophilic prokaryotes. View Full-Text
Keywords: Acidithiobacillus; acid mine drainage (AMD); acid streamers; Actinobacteria; Ferrovum; iron oxidation; microbial communities Acidithiobacillus; acid mine drainage (AMD); acid streamers; Actinobacteria; Ferrovum; iron oxidation; microbial communities
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Kay, C.M.; Rowe, O.F.; Rocchetti, L.; Coupland, K.; Hallberg, K.B.; Johnson, D.B. Evolution of Microbial “Streamer” Growths in an Acidic, Metal-Contaminated Stream Draining an Abandoned Underground Copper Mine. Life 2013, 3, 189-210.

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