Prokaryotes at Colour Peak – An analogue for the Icy Moons

Macey, Michael C.; Stephens, Ben; Fox-Powell, Mark; Cousins, Claire R.; Schwenzer, Susanne P.; Pearson, Victoria K. and Olsson-Francis, Karen (2018). Prokaryotes at Colour Peak – An analogue for the Icy Moons. In: 12th International congress of Extremophiles, 16-20 Sep 2018, Ischia, Naples.



Colour Peak is a region of continuous permafrost in the Canadian arctic known for its perennial cold springs (the temperature does not rise above 7°C). The springs are sulphur-rich and highly saline, having been sourced from deep saline aquifers. These properties have led to the springs being considered analogous to the sub-surface oceans of the icy moons Enceladus and Europa, and to aqueous environments on Mars. Therefore, the phylogenetic and functional diversity of prokaryotes which persist and are active in this environment is important for understanding the survivability and metabolism of potential life within these extra-terrestrial environments. Furthermore, they offer the opportunity to identify potential bio-signatures, which could be used as evidence of life. Cultivation-dependant and -independent techniques were applied in order to assess the diversity of prokaryotes present in sediment collected from a hyper-saline cold pool at Colour Peak. The microbial community present and active at the site was characterised through the sequencing of 16S rRNA gene amplicons amplified from DNA and RNA extracted from the sediment. The community profile was used to inform enrichment strategies, allowing the isolation and characterisation of several aerobic and anaerobic isolates. Through assessment of the physiologies of the isolated strains it was possible to further build an insight into the metabolic potential underpinning their survival in Colour Peak. This work indicates the identity of the key players in the microbial community of this analogue site and further our understanding of survival under this range of selection pressures.

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