Microbial diversity in lava tubes from Canary Islands (Spain) has never been explored thus far offering a unique opportunity to study subsurface microbiology. Abundant yellow coloured mats developing on coralloid speleothems in a lava tube from La Palma Islands were studied by next-generation sequencing and DNA/RNA clone library analyses for investigating both total and metabolically active bacteria. In addition, morphological and mineralogical characterization was performed by field emission scanning electron microscopy (FESEM), micro-computed tomography, X-ray diffraction and infrared spectroscopy to contextualize sequence data. This approach showed that the coralloid speleothems consist of banded siliceous stalactites composed of opal-A and hydrated halloysite. Analytical pyrolysis was also conducted to infer the possible origin of cave wall pigmentation, revealing that lignin degradation compounds can contribute to speleothem colour. Our RNA-based study showed for the first time that members of the phylum Actinobacteria, with 55% of the clones belonging to Euzebyales order, were metabolically active components of yellow mats. In contrast, the DNA clone library revealed that around 45% of clones were affiliated to Proteobacteria. Composition of microbial phyla obtained by NGS reinforced the DNA clone library data at the phylum level, in which Proteobacteria was the most abundant phylum followed by Actinobacteria. © 2018 The Author(s).
Year of publication: 2018