Kerguelen Archipelago (also known as Desolation Island) is a remote inhospitable island and one of the hottest polar hydrothermal areas, located halfway between Antarctica and the African continent in the South Indian Ocean. Many hot springs and fumaroles, which are fueled by magna beneath the island, support thermophilic procaryotic communities.
Where do they come from? Are they able to disseminate in the atmosphere ?
In order to determine if thermophilic microorganisms could be transported through airborne processes and colonize new environments, diversity assessments of the communities present in hot water were performed and fumaroles and aerosols were collected in the vicinity of the hydrothermal fields
After an intensive test phase at extreme field conditions (cold and hot temperatures, high humidity and wind), collection of airborne microorganisms was conducted in the vicinity of hot springs (Figure 1).
We detected a wide diversity of bacterial and archaeal populations in all types of samples including aerosols.
While all the prokaryotic DNA signatures detected in hot springs or steam vents were hyper/thermophilic,
only scarce representatives were found in the aerosols, in which microbial populations were largely dominated by mesophilic or psychrophilic bacteria.
Nonetheless, this suggests that hyperthermophilic microorganisms could be aerosolised and transported by steam and wind.