To investigate the spatial and temporal diversity in the fungal community of the Dead Sea, we collected Dead Sea water samples at eight near-shore localities and at different stations offshore over a 1-year period (1999-2000). In addition, depth profiles were sampled at a deep station (304 m) in the centre of the sea. In the course of the study we obtained 476 isolates, comprising 38 species from 19 genera of Oomycota (1), Zygomycota (2), Ascomycota (13), and mitosporic fungi (3). This brings the total number of species recovered from the Dead Sea to 55. Approximately 43% of the isolates belonged to the genera Aspergillus and Eurotium. Most of the species found appeared only in winter. Fungal diversity increased near the outlets of less saline springs near the shore. The species Aspergillus terreus, A. sydowii, A. versicolor, Eurotium herbariorum, Penicillium westlingii Cladosporium cladosporoides and C. sphaerospermum were isolated consistently and probably form a stable core of the community. The results suggest that a remarkably diverse fungal diversity may be found in the hypersaline Dead Sea waters. To what extent the fungal diversity recovered was present as dormant spores or as vegetative mycelia remains to be determined.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was supported in part by the Israel Discount Bank Chair of Evolutionary Biology and the Ancell–Teicher Research Foundation for Genetics and Molecular Evolution and by the US Agency for International Development Bureau for Global Programs, field support and research centre for economic growth office of agriculture and food security (grant TA-MOU-96-CA16-014).