Abstract Water bodies with NaCl concentrations approaching saturation are often populated by dense microbial communities. Red halophilic Archaea of the family Halobacteriaceae dominate in such environments. The application of molecular biological techniques, in particular the use of approaches based on the characterization of ribosomal RNA sequences, has greatly contributed to our understanding of the community structure of halophilic Archaea in hypersaline ecosystems. Analyses of lipids extracted from the environment have also provided useful information. This article reviews our present understanding of the community structure of halophilic Archaea in saltern crystallizer ponds, in the Dead Sea, in African hypersaline soda lakes, and in other hypersaline water bodies. It was recently shown that red heterotrophic Bacteria of the genus Salinibacter, which are no less salt-dependent and salt-tolerant than the most halophilic among the Archaea, may coexist with the halophilic archaeal community. Our latest insights into their distribution in hypersaline ecosystems are presented as well.
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