Diversity and distribution of Tardigrada in Arctic cryoconite holes

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Krzysztof Zawierucha *
Marta Ostrowska
Tobias R. Vonnahme
Miloslav Devetter
Adam P. Nawrot
Sara Lehmann
Małgorzata Kolicka
(*) Corresponding Author:
Krzysztof Zawierucha | k.p.zawierucha@gmail.com


Despite the fact that glaciers and ice sheets have been monitored for more than a century, knowledge on the glacial biota remains poor. Cryoconite holes are water-filled reservoirs on a glacier’s surface and one of the most extreme ecosystems for micro-invertebrates. Tardigrada, also known as water bears, are a common inhabitant of cryoconite holes. In this paper we present novel data on the morphology, diversity, distribution and role in food web of tardigrades on Arctic glaciers. From 33 sampled cryoconite holes of 6 glaciers on Spitsbergen, in 25 tardigrades were found and identified. Five taxa of Tardigrada (Eutardigrada) were found in the samples, they are: Hypsibius dujardini, Hypsibius sp. A, Isohypsibius sp. A., Pilatobius recamieri, and one species of Ramazzottiidae. H. dujardini and P. recamieri were previously known from tundra in the Svalbard archipelago. Despite the number of studies on Arctic tundra ecosystems, Hypsibius sp. A, one species of Ramazzottiidae and Isohypsibius sp. A are known only from cryoconite holes. Tardigrade found in this study do not falsify the hypothesis that glaciers and ice sheets are a viable biome (characteristic for biome organisms assemblages - tardigrades). Diagnosis of Hypsibius sp. A, Isohypsibius sp. A, and species of Ramazzottiidae with discussion on the status of taxa, is provided. To check what analytes are associated with the presence of tardigrades in High Arctic glacier chemical analyses were carried out on samples taken from the Buchan Glacier. pH values and the chemical composition of anions and cations from cryoconite hole water from the Buchan Glacier are also presented. The current study on the Spitsbergen glaciers clearly indicates that tardigrade species richness in cryoconite holes is lower than tardigrade species richness in Arctic tundra ecosystems, but consists of unique cryoconite hole species. As cryoconite tardigrades may feed on bacteria as well as algae, they are primary consumers and grazers - secondary consumers of the decomposer food chain in this extreme ecosystem. 

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