We quantified the diversity of oxygenic phototrophic microorganisms present in eight hypersaline microbial mats on the basis of three cultivation-independent approaches. Morphological diversity was studied by microscopy. The diversity of carotenoids was examined by extraction from mat samples and high-pressure liquid chromatography analysis. The diversity of 16S rRNA genes from oxygenic phototrophic microorganisms was investigated by extraction of total DNA from mat samples, amplification of 16S rRNA gene segments from cyanobacteria and plastids of eukaryotic algae by phylum-specific PCR, and sequence-dependent separation of amplification products by denaturing-gradient gel electrophoresis. A numerical approach was introduced to correct for crowding the results of chromatographic and electrophoretic analyses. Diversity estimates typically varied up to twofold among mats. The congruence of richness estimates and Shannon-Weaver indices based on numbers and proportional abundances of unique morphotypes, 16S rRNA genes, and carotenoids unveiled the underlying diversity of oxygenic phototrophic microorganisms in the eight mat communities studied
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