Antarctic Rock-Inhabiting microbial communities

Cryptoendolithic communities are self-sustaining microbial ecosystems thriving in the harshest continental Antarctica ice-free areas, where environmental conditions for supporting life are at the limits. The endolithic habitat provides thermal buffering, physical stability, protection against UV radiation, excessive solar radiation and enables water retention, assuring to microbes adapted to develop endolithically the conditions for transient active life. Microorganisms in these communities occupy a niche in a few millimetres’ depth below rock surface, forming a typically coloured and biologically distinct stratification.  

Sandstone colonized by cryptoendolithic communities, Linnaeus Terrace, McMurdo Dry Valleys, Southern Victoria Land
Finger Mt., McMurdo Dry Valleys, Southern Victoria Land
Sample collected at Finger Mt., McMurdo Dry Valleys, Southern Victoria Land
University Valley, McMurdo Dry Valleys, Southern Victoria Land
Battleship Promontory, McMurdo Dry Valleys, Southern Victoria Land

Research Projects

Italian National Program for Antarctic Research (PNRA)

  • Antarctica: study of Microbial Diversity in ENdolithic communities to investigating the effects of Climate Change and the limits of habitability (AMUNDSEN) - PNRA16_00006

  • Biodiversity and distribution of epi-endolithic communities for the limits of life in Victoria Land, Antarctica - PNRA 2013/AZ1.17

  • Metagenomic profiling of Antarctic cRyptoendolithic communities preserved in the mycological Section on the Italian Antarctic National Museum, MNA (MARS) - PNRA18_00318

  • The Antarctic lichens as evolutionary niches for microbial diversification (THALLI) - PNRA18_00056

US DOE Joint Genome Institute (JGI) - Environmental Molecular Science Laboratory (EMSL)

  • Metagenomic Reconstruction of Endolithic Communities from Victoria Land, Antarctica (ID503708)

  • Metabolic processes and trophic interactions in Antarctic cryptoendolithic communities (ID51548)

Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC)

  • Rock bioweathering and soil-forming processes at the polar critical zone: a multi-scalar approach