Biologists have discovered a new type of soil amoeba in the “Siberian jungle”

Scientists from St. Petersburg State University, along with colleagues from Tomsk and Novosibirsk, discovered a new species of soil amoeba Leptomyxa silvatica n. sp. in the black taiga of Western Siberia. The results of the study were published in the journal Protistology.

Light microscope Leptomyxa silvatica

The Chernevaya taiga (the so-called Siberian jungle) is a region of Western Siberia, which is included in the World Wildlife Fund’s register of unique ecosystems. This area has excellent biodiversity.

As noted by Alla Lapidus, a professor at St. Petersburg University, the first thing that catches the eye in the black taiga is the completely unexplained gigantism of the grass. For example, in summer, the grass of the “Siberian jungle” has an average height of 1.5-2 meters, ie it is able to completely hide a person or a rider on a horse.

“I thought the idea that this gigantism is not so much a result of the influence of climatic conditions, but, probably, because of the unique properties of the soil microflora. And if this phenomenon is well understood, then, most likely, this discovery can be used in agriculture. “We already have some confirmation of this,” said Alla Lapidus, the project’s lead professor at St. Petersburg University.

He added that the work on the study of the black taiga is interdisciplinary, carried out in collaboration with colleagues from Tomsk State University. The project also involves employees of the All-Russian Research Institute of Agricultural Microbiology, the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Central Botanical Garden of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Scientists are conducting research in the region of Western Siberia, the unique properties of which have not been studied so extensively by anyone in the past.

“Scientists have also studied the protozoan component of the soil, in particular, the diversity of remunerative proteins, which play a very important role in the life of soil microorganisms, in the circulation of matter and energy in soil habitats. “Our colleagues, participants in the project from the University of St. Petersburg, have made very interesting discoveries, one of which is the discovery of a new species of amoeba,” said Alla Lapidus.

Aleksey Smirnov, Associate Professor in the Department of Invertebrate Zoology at St. Petersburg University, pointed out that a number of rare or even new species of amoebae were discovered as part of this study. One of them is a new kind of class Thin musk, whose nucleotide sequence in the 18S ribosomal RNA gene is significantly different from all known species. The new species of amoeba also has characteristic morphological differences. is called an amoeba Leptomyxa silvatica (from the Latin word silva – forest). The full name of the new species means “comes from the forest” as an indication that the amoeba was isolated from a forest habitat.

“This finding shows once again how little we know about the vast world of tiny animals. The number of heterotrophic unicellular organisms in soils can reach huge numbers – tens of thousands of cells in a single gram of soil. It is the most important natural ingredient that regulates the number of fungi and bacteria in the soil. Morphologically, we know only a small part of all this difference. Studies of DNA molecules isolated directly from various soil types show that “with our eyes” we did not see more than 5% of the organisms that live there. Not only individual species have been discovered, but whole large groups of soil protozoa. This is why modern molecular morphological studies are so important, which show us who the discovered sequences belong to and who really lives beneath our feet in the literal sense of the word and contributes significantly to the processes that take place in black soils. taiga “, concluded Alexei Smirnov.

Scientists stress that it is necessary to continue an in-depth study of the black taiga, including the protection of the soil of the “Siberian jungle”. The degradation of the rarest natural resource, according to experts, will have irreversible negative consequences, in which the restoration of a unique ecosystem may be impossible.

The study of the samples collected using the most modern research methods was made possible thanks to the unique Science Park created at St. Petersburg University – a system of resource centers that gathered the most modern equipment. The equipment of the “Development of Molecular and Cellular Technologies”, “Computer Center of St. Petersburg State University”, “Biobank” and “Cultivation of Microorganisms” actively participated in this study.

The research on the black taiga in the SPbU is carried out as part of a project led by SPbU Professor Alla Lapidus, supported by the Russian Institute of Science (No. 19-16-00049).

In 2022, St. Petersburg University celebrates the Year of Zoology, which is timed to coincide with two anniversaries of zoological education at St. Petersburg University. This year marks the 200th anniversary of the opening of Russia’s first zoology department at the university. St. Petersburg University also celebrates the 150th anniversary of the department’s official division into two independent scientific and educational departments – invertebrate zoology and vertebrate zoology.

In honor of the memorable dates, the university also plans a scientific and historical session “Zoology at St. Petersburg State University: Past and Present”, Dogel Readings, art exhibition “200 Years of Zoology at St. Petersburg State University”, excursions to the departments of vertebrate and invertebrate zoology, as well as a presentation of a book by Russian protologist Vladimir Shevyakov.

Information and photos are provided by the press service of the University of St. Petersburg

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