Taxonomic and functional insights into rock varnish microbiome using shotgun metagenomics
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Rock varnish is a microbial habitat, characterised by thin (5-500 μm) and shiny coatings of iron (Fe) and manganese (Mn) oxides associated with clay minerals. This structure is well studied by geologists, and recently there have been reports about the taxonomical composition of its microbiome. In this study, we investigated the rock varnish microbiome using shotgun metagenomics together with analyses of elemental composition, lipid and small molecule biomarkers, and rock surface analyses to explore the biogeography of microbial communities and their functional features. We report taxa and encoded functions represented in metagenomes retrieved from varnish or non-varnish samples, additionally, eight nearly complete genomes have been reconstructed spanning four phyla (Acidobacteria, Actinobacteria, Chloroflexi and TM7). The functional and taxonomic analyses presented in this study provide new insights into the ecosystem dynamics and survival strategies of microbial communities inhabiting varnish and non-varnish rock surfaces.