Nearly 1,000 species of microbes discovered in ‘extreme’ Tibetan glaciers

Living as a microbe on the Tibetan plateau is not easy. Freezing temperatures, high levels of solar radiation, not much food, and it will regularly freeze and then thaw depending on the time of year.

Therefore, it is surprising that in these “extreme environmental conditions” scientists have discovered 968 species characterized by a very diverse set of microbes. This discovery comes courtesy of the first catalog of genomes dedicated to a glacial ecosystem.

“Glacier surfaces support a variety of life, including bacteria, algae, archaea, fungi, and other micronucleus. Microorganisms have demonstrated the ability to adapt to these extreme conditions and contribute to vital ecological processes,” The team writes on their new paper.

“Icy ice can also serve as a record of microorganisms from the past, successfully reviving ancient airborne microorganisms (over 10,000 years old. Therefore, the icy microbiome also forms an invaluable timeline of microbial life on our planet.”

Researchers sharpen specific set of glaciers – Tibetan plateau. This 2.5 million square kilometer area is an important source of water for surrounding regions in Asia and has been particularly affected by climate change, with more than 80 percent of the glaciers beginning to retreat.

Not only is it important for us to know what microbes are out there (just in case they’re a problem for humans and the ecosystem when the ice melts), but if we don’t notice the ones that are currently, Climate change It may soon make them lost in history.

“Here we present the first genome and gene catalog of glacier ecosystems, to the best of our knowledge, consisting of 3,241 genomes, metagenome-assembled genomes and 25 million non-redundant proteins from 85 Tibetan glacial metagenomics and 883 cultivated isolates,” the team was led by an ecologist at the University of Tibet. Lanzhou, Yongqin Liu, write in their paper.

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The researchers made a huge effort, taking samples of snow, ice and soil from 21 glaciers in Tibet between 2016 and 2020. They used metagenomic methods on samples to collect all genetic material present; They also cultured some of the microbes in the lab to learn more about them and retrieve a higher percentage of their genome.

Surprisingly, 82% of the genomes were from new species. Eleven percent of the megafauna species are found in just one glacier, while 10 percent are found in nearly all glaciers studied.

The project has become what researchers call the “Tibet Glacier Genome and Gene” (TG2G) catalog, and we hope this will be of use to researchers in the future, with new additions as more species are found.

“The TG2G Catalog provides a database and platform to archive, analyze and compare the glacial microbiome at the genome and genetic level. It is particularly relevant because the glacial ecosystem is threatened by global warming, and glaciers are retreating at an unprecedented rate,” The team writes.

“We envision that the catalog will form the basis of a comprehensive global repository of glacial microbiome data.”

The search was published in nature biotechnology.

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