Biology Ph.D. Dissertations

Metagenomic And Metatranscriptomic Analyses Of Lake Vostok Accretion Ice

Yury M. Shtarkman, Bowling Green State University


Lake Vostok (Antarctica) is the 4th deepest lake on Earth, the 6th largest by volume, and 16th largest by area, being similar in area to Ladoga Lake (Russia) and Lake Ontario (North America). However, it is a subglacial lake, constantly covered by more than 3,800 m of glacial ice, and has been covered for at least 15 million years. As the glacier slowly traverses the lake, water from the lake freezes (i.e., accretes) to the bottom of the glacier, such that on the far side of the lake a 230 m thick layer of accretion ice collects. This essentially samples various parts of the lake surface water as the glacier moves across the lake. As the glacier enters the lake, it passes over a shallow embayment. The embayment accretion ice is characterized by its silty inclusions and relatively high concentrations of several ions. It then passes over a peninsula (or island) and into the main basin. The main basin accretion ice is clear with almost no inclusions and low ion content. Metagenomic/metatranscriptomic analysis has been performed on two accretion ice samples; one from the shallow embayment and the other from part of the main lake basin. Ice from the shallow embayment contains a variety of Bacteria as well as a few Archaea and several types of Eukarya. Most are related to species that are psychrophilic, marine, aquatic, or live in lake/ocean sediments, or a combination of these. However, sequences identified as originating from many different thermophiles were found, suggesting the presence of hydrothermal activity in the lake. In contrast to the embayment ice, the ice from the main basin yielded only about 5-6% of the number of sequences. Here again, molecular signatures of psychrophiles, marine, aquatic, a few sediment-dwelling organisms, and a few thermophiles were found. Because of the extreme conditions, it has been hypothesized that Lake Vostok is sterile, or that very few types of organisms inhabit the lake. Our results indicate that it contains a diverse set of organisms, and the number and taxonomic composition varies with position in the lake.