Yeasts are common inhabitants of different types of aquatic habitats, including marine and estuarine waters and rivers. Although numerous studies have surveyed yeast occurrence in these habitats, the identification of autochthonous populations has been problematic because several yeast species seem to be very versatile and therefore mere presence is not sufficient to establish an ecological association. In the present study we investigated the dynamics of the yeast community in the Tagus river estuary (Portugal) by combining a microbiological study involving isolation, quantification, and molecular identification of dominant yeast populations with the analysis of hydrological and hydrographical data. We set out to test the hypothesis of the multiple origins of estuarine yeast populations in a transect of the Tagus estuary and we postulate four possible sources: open sea, terrestrial, gastrointestinal and the estuary itself in the case of populations that have become resident. Candida parapsilosis and Pichia guilliermondii were correlated with Escherichia coli, which indicated an intestinal origin. Other cream-colored yeasts like Debaryomyces hansenii and Candida zeylanoides had similar dynamics, but no association with E. coli and quite distinct ecological preferences. They might represent a group of resident estuarine populations whose primary origin is diverse and can include marine, terrestrial, and gastrointestinal habitats. Another major yeast population was represented by Rhodotorula mucilaginosa. The cosmopolitan nature of that species and its moderate association with E. coli point to terrestrial sources as primary habitats.
- Molecular identification
- Microbial ecology