Tagging amplicons with tag sequences appended to PCR primers allow the multiplexing of numerous samples for high-throughput sequencing (HTS). This approach is routinely used in HTS-based diversity analyses, especially in microbial ecology and biomedical diagnostics. However, amplicon library preparation is subject to pervasive sample sequence cross-contaminations as a result of tag switching events referred to as mistagging. Here, we sequenced seven amplicon libraries prepared using various multiplexing designs in order to measure the magnitude of this phenomenon and its impact on diversity analyses. Up to 28.2% of the unique sequences correspond to undetectable (critical) mistags in single- or saturated double-tagging libraries. We show the advantage of multiplexing samples following Latin Square Designs in order to optimize the detection of mistags and maximize the information on their distribution across samples. We use this information in designs incorporating PCR replicates to filter the critical mistags and to recover the exact composition of mock community samples. Being parameter-free and data-driven, our approach can provide more accurate and reproducible HTS data sets, improving the reliability of their interpretations.
Foraminifera are commonly defined as marine testate protists, and their diversity is mainly assessed on the basis of the morphology of their agglutinated or mineralized tests. Diversity surveys based on environmental DNA (eDNA) have dramatically changed this view by revealing an unexpected diversity of naked and organic-walled lineages as well as detecting foraminiferal lineages in soil and freshwater environments. Moreover, single-cell analyses have allowed discrimination among genetically distinctive types within almost every described morphospecies. In view of these studies, the foraminiferal diversity appeared to be largely underestimated, but its accurate estimation was impeded by the low speed and coverage of a cloning-based eDNA approach. With the advent of high-throughput sequencing (HTS) technologies, these limitations disappeared in favor of exhaustive descriptions of foraminiferal diversity in numerous samples. Yet, the biases and errors identified in early HTS studies raised some questions about the accuracy of HTS data and their biological interpretation. Among the most controversial issues affecting the reliability of HTS diversity estimates are (1) the impact of technical and biological biases, (2) the sensitivity and specificity of taxonomic sequence assignment, (3) the ability to distinguish rare species, and (4) the quantitative interpretation of HTS data. Here, we document the lessons learned from previous HTS surveys and present the current advances and applications focusing on foraminiferal eDNA. We discuss the problems associated with HTS approaches and predict the future trends and avenues that hold promises for surveying foraminiferal diversity accurately and efficiently.
Spatial patchiness is a natural feature that strongly influences the level of species richness we perceive in surface sediments sampled in the deep-sea. Recent environmental DNA (eDNA) surveys of benthic micro- and meiofauna confirmed this exceptional richness. However, it is unknown to which extent the results of these studies, based usually on few grams of sediment, are affected by spatial patchiness of deep-sea benthos. Here, we analyse the eDNA diversity of Foraminifera in 42 deep-sea sediment samples collected across different scales in the Southern Ocean. At three stations, we deployed at least twice the multicorer and from each multicorer cast, we subsampled 3 sediment replicates per core for 2 cores. Using high-throughput sequencing (HTS), we generated over 2.35 million high-quality sequences that we clustered into 451 operational taxonomic units (OTUs). The majority of OTUs were assigned to the monothalamous (single-chambered) taxa and environmental clades. On average, a one-gram sediment sample captures 57.9% of the overall OTU diversity found in a single core, while three replicates cover at most 61.9% of the diversity found in a station. The OTUs found in all the replicates of each core gather up to 87.9% of the total sequenced reads, but only represent from 12.2% to 30% of the OTUs found in one core. These OTUs represent the most abundant species, among which dominate environmental lineages. The majority of the OTUs are represented by few sequences comprising several well-known deep-sea morphospecies or remaining unassigned. It is crucial to study wider arrays of sample and PCR replicates as well as RNA together with DNA in order to overcome biases stemming from deep-sea patchiness and molecular methods.
The cytoplasm of four species of abyssal benthic foraminiferans from the Southern Ocean (around 51°S; 12°W and 50°S; 39°W) was analysed by High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) and found to contain large concentrations of algal pigments and their degradation products. The composition of the algal pigments in the foraminiferan cytoplasm reflected the plankton community at the surface. Some foraminiferans contained high ratios of chlorophyll a/degraded pigments because they were feeding on fresher phytodetritus. Other foraminiferans contained only degraded pigments which shows that they utilized degraded phytodetritus. The concentration of algal pigment and corresponding degradation products in the foraminiferan cytoplasm is much higher than in the surrounding sediment. It shows that the foraminiferans collect a diluted and sparse food resource and concentrate it as they build up their cytoplasm. This ability contributes to the understanding of the great quantitative success of foraminiferans in the deep sea. Benthic foraminiferans are a food source for many abyssal metazoans. They form a link between the degraded food resources, phytodetritus, back to the active metazoan food chains.
Due to their high abundance and large body size sponges have a central position in Antarctic zoobenthos, where they form the most extensive sponge grounds of the world. Though research on Antarctic benthos communities is quite established, research on sponge-associated infauna communities is scarce. We analyzed associated infauna of fifteen individuals of the sponge species Mycale (Oxymycale) acerata Kirkpatrick, 1907 (Demospongiae: Mycalina), Rossella antarctica Carter, 1872 and R. racovitzae Topsent, 1901 (both Hexactinellida: Lyssacinosida). Samples were collected from the deep Ekström Shelf at 602 m in the South-Eastern Weddell Sea, Antarctica, during the ANT XXIV-2 (SYSTCO I) expedition of RV Polarstern. The number of species, α- and β-diversity and the significantly different species composition of infauna communities related to sponge species were calculated, the latter via cluster analysis. The sponge-associated infauna consisted of five phyla: Foraminifera, Nematoda, Polychaeta, Mollusca and Arthropoda. In total 11,463 infaunal specimens were extracted and we found at least 76 associated species. Highest values of α-diversity were calculated for a sample of R. antarctica with a Shannon-Index of 1.84 and Simpson-Index of 0.72 respectively. Our results of the cluster-analysis show significant differences between infauna communities and a unique species composition for single sponge species. Polychaetes of the genus Syllis Lamarck, 1818 were numerous in M. acerata and genera like Pionosyllis Malmgren, 1867 and Cirratulus Lamarck, 1801 were numerous in R. antarctica. Individuals of the amphipod species Seba cf. dubia Schellenberg, 1926 were often found in R. antarctica and R. racovitzae while Colomastix fissilingua Schellenberg, 1926 was frequent in samples of M. acerata. Molluscs were present in M. acerata and R. antarctica but absent in R. racovitzae.
The measurement of species diversity represents a powerful tool for assessing the impacts of human activities on marine ecosystems. Traditionally, the impact of fish farming on the coastal environment is evaluated by monitoring the dynamics of macrobenthic infaunal populations. However, taxonomic sorting and morphology-based identification of the macrobenthos demand highly trained specialists and are extremely time-consuming and costly, making it unsuitable for large-scale biomonitoring efforts involving numerous samples. Here, we propose to alleviate this laborious task by developing protist metabarcoding tools based on next-generation sequencing (NGS) of environmental DNA and RNA extracted from sediment samples. In this study, we analysed the response of benthic foraminiferal communities to the variation of environmental gradients associated with salmon farms in Scotland. We investigated the foraminiferal diversity based on ribosomal minibarcode sequences generated by the Illumina NGS technology. We compared the molecular data with morphospecies counts and with environmental gradients, including distance to cages and redox used as a proxy for sediment oxygenation. Our study revealed high variations between foraminiferal communities collected in the vicinity of fish farms and at distant locations. We found evidence for species richness decrease in impacted sites, especially visible in the RNA data. We also detected some candidate bioindicator foraminiferal species. Based on this proof-of-concept study, we conclude that NGS metabarcoding using foraminifera and other protists has potential to become a new tool for surveying the impact of aquaculture and other industrial activities in the marine environment.
Recent palaeogenetic studies have demonstrated the occurrence of preserved ancient DNA (aDNA) in various types of fossilised material. Environmental aDNA sequences assigned to modern species have been recovered from marine sediments dating to the Pleistocene. However, the match between the aDNA and the fossil record still needs to be evaluated for the environmental DNA approaches to be fully exploited. Here, we focus on foraminifera in sediments up to one thousand years old retrieved from the Hornsund fjord (Svalbard). We compared the diversity of foraminiferal microfossil assemblages with the diversity of aDNA sequenced from subsurface sediment samples using both cloning and high-throughput sequencing (HTS). Our study shows that 57% of the species archived in the fossil record were also detected in the aDNA data. However, the relative abundance of aDNA sequence reads and fossil specimens differed considerably. We also found a limited match between the stratigraphic occurrence of some fossil species and their aDNA sequences, especially in the case of rare taxa. The aDNA data comprised a high proportion of non-fossilised monothalamous species, which are known to dominate in modern foraminiferal communities of the Svalbard region. Our results confirm the relevance of HTS for studying past micro-eukaryotic diversity and provide insight into its ability to reflect fossil assemblages. Palaeogenetic studies including aDNA analyses of non-fossilised groups expand the range of palaeoceanographical proxies and therefore may increase the accuracy of palaeoenvironmental reconstructions.
Anoxia has been successfully induced in four benthic chambers installed on the Northern Adriatic seafloor from 1 week to 10 months. To accurately determine whether benthic foraminifera can survive experimentally induced prolonged anoxia, the CellTrackerGreen method has been applied. Numerous individuals have been found living at all sampling times and at all sampling depths, showing that benthic foraminifera can survive up to 10 months of anoxia with co-occurring hydrogen sulphides. However, foraminiferal standing stocks decrease with sampling time in an irregular way. A large difference in standing stock between two cores samples in initial conditions indicates the presence of a large spatial heterogeneity of the foraminiferal faunas. An unexpected increase in standing stocks after 1 month is tentatively interpreted as a reaction to increased food availability due to the massive mortality of infaunal macrofaunal organisms. After this, standing stocks decrease again in a core sampled after 2 months of anoxia, to attain a minimum in the cores sampled after 10 months. We speculate that the trend of overall decrease of standing stocks is not due to the adverse effects of anoxia and hydrogen sulphides, but rather due to a continuous diminution of labile organic matter.
Deep-sea subsurface sediments are the most important archives of marine biodiversity. Until now, these archives were studied mainly using the microfossil record, disregarding large amounts of DNA accumulated on the deep-sea floor. Accessing ancient DNA (aDNA) molecules preserved down-core would offer unique insights into the history of marine biodiversity, including both fossilized and non-fossilized taxa. Here, we recover aDNA of eukaryotic origin across four cores collected at abyssal depths in the South Atlantic, in up to 32.5 thousand-year-old sediment layers. Our study focuses on Foraminifera and Radiolaria, two major groups of marine microfossils also comprising diverse non-fossilized taxa. We describe their assemblages in down-core sediment layers applying both micropalaeontological and environmental DNA sequencing approaches. Short fragments of the foraminiferal and radiolarian small subunit rRNA gene recovered from sedimentary DNA extracts provide evidence that eukaryotic aDNA is preserved in deep-sea sediments encompassing the last glacial maximum. Most aDNA were assigned to non-fossilized taxa that also dominate in molecular studies of modern environments. Our study reveals the potential of aDNA to better document the evolution of past marine ecosystems and opens new horizons for the development of deep-sea palaeogenomics.
Metagenetics represents an efficient and rapid tool to describe environmental diversity patterns of microbial eukaryotes based on ribosomal DNA sequences. However, the results of metagenetic studies are often biased by the presence of extracellular DNA molecules that are persistent in the environment, especially in deep-sea sediment. As an alternative, short-lived RNA molecules constitute a good proxy for the detection of active species. Here, we used a metatranscriptomic approach based on RNA-derived (cDNA) sequences to study the diversity of the deep-sea benthic foraminifera and compared it to the metagenetic approach. We analyzed 257 ribosomal DNA and cDNA sequences obtained from seven sediments samples collected in the Sea of Japan at depths ranging from 486 to 3665 m. The DNA and RNA-based approaches gave a similar view of the taxonomic composition of foraminiferal assemblage, but differed in some important points. First, the cDNA dataset was dominated by sequences of rotaliids and robertiniids, suggesting that these calcareous species, some of which have been observed in Rose Bengal stained samples, are the most active component of foraminiferal community. Second, the richness of monothalamous (single-chambered) foraminifera was particularly high in DNA extracts from the deepest samples, confirming that this group of foraminifera is abundant but not necessarily very active in the deep-sea sediments. Finally, the high divergence of undetermined sequences in cDNA dataset indicate the limits of our database and lack of knowledge about some active but possibly rare species. Our study demonstrates the capability of the metatranscriptomic approach to detect active foraminiferal species and prompt its use in future high-throughput sequencing-based environmental surveys.