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Copahue Geothermal System: A Volcanic Environment with Rich Extreme Prokaryotic Biodiversity

CINDEFI (CCT La Plata-CONICET, Facultad de Ciencias Exactas—UNLP), calle 50 entre 115 y 116 N° 227 La Plata, Buenos Aires B8508, Argentina
Centro de Astrobiología, Instituto Nacional de Técnica Aeroespacial (INTA-CSIC), Carretera de Ajalvir Km. 4, 28850, Torrejón de Ardoz, Madrid 28850, Spain
Laboratorio de Biolixiviación, Departamentoo de Química—Facultad de Ingeniería, Universidad Nacional del Comahue, PROBIEN (CONICET-UNCo) Buenos Aires 1400 (8300) Neuquén, Argentina
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Ricardo Amils
Microorganisms 2015, 3(3), 344-363;
Received: 12 April 2015 / Revised: 9 June 2015 / Accepted: 15 June 2015 / Published: 8 July 2015
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Extremophiles)
PDF [2153 KB, uploaded 8 July 2015]


The Copahue geothermal system is a natural extreme environment located at the northern end of the Cordillera de los Andes in Neuquén province in Argentina. The geochemistry and consequently the biodiversity of the area are dominated by the activity of the Copahue volcano. The main characteristic of Copahue is the extreme acidity of its aquatic environments; ponds and hot springs of moderate and high temperature as well as Río Agrio. In spite of being an apparently hostile location, the prokaryotic biodiversity detected by molecular ecology techniques as well as cultivation shows a rich and diverse environment dominated by acidophilic, sulphur oxidising bacteria or archaea, depending on the conditions of the particular niche studied. In microbial biofilms, found in the borders of the ponds where thermal activity is less intense, the species found are completely different, with a high presence of cyanobacteria and other photosynthetic species. Our results, collected during more than 10 years of work in Copahue, have enabled us to outline geomicrobiological models for the different environments found in the ponds and Río Agrio. Besides, Copahue seems to be the habitat of novel, not yet characterised autochthonous species, especially in the domain Archaea. View Full-Text
Keywords: Copahue geothermal system; acidic environment; prokaryotic biodiversity; extremophiles Copahue geothermal system; acidic environment; prokaryotic biodiversity; extremophiles

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Urbieta, M.S.; Porati, G.W.; Segretín, A.B.; González-Toril, E.; Giaveno, M.A.; Donati, E.R. Copahue Geothermal System: A Volcanic Environment with Rich Extreme Prokaryotic Biodiversity. Microorganisms 2015, 3, 344-363.

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