Diverse Microbial Hot Spring Mat Communities at Black Canyon of the Colorado River.
The thermophilic microbial mat communities at hot springs in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River, thought to harbor the protistan human pathogen Naegleria fowleri, were surveyed using both culture-independent and -dependent methods to further understand the ecology of these hot spring microbiomes. Originating from Lake Mead source water, seven spring sites were sampled, varying in temperature from 25 to 55 °C. Amplicon-based high-throughput sequencing of twelve samples using 16S rRNA primers (hypervariable V4 region) revealed that most mats are dominated by cyanobacterial taxa, some but not all similar to those dominating the mats at other studied hot spring systems. 18S rRNA amplicon sequencing (V9 region) demonstrated a diverse community of protists and other eukaryotes including a highly abundant amoebal sequence related to Echinamoeba thermarum. Additional taxonomic and diversity metric analyses using near full-length 16S and 18S rRNA gene sequencing allowed a higher sequence-based resolution of the community. The mat sequence data suggest a major diversification of the cyanobacterial orders Leptolyngbyales, as well as microdiversity among several cyanobacterial taxa. Cyanobacterial isolates included some representatives of ecologically abundant taxa. A Spearman correlation analysis of short-read amplicon sequencing data supported the co-occurrences of populations of cyanobacteria, chloroflexi, and bacteroidetes providing evidence of common microbial co-occurrences across the Black Canyon hot springs.