To survive in Antarctica, early explorers of Antarctica's Heroic Age erected wooden buildings and brought in large quantities of supplies. The introduction of wood and other organic materials may have provided new nutrient sources for fungi that were indigenous to Antarctica or were brought in with the materials. From 30 samples taken from Discovery Hut, 156 filamentous fungi were isolated on selective media. Of these, 108 were screened for hydrolytic activity on carboxymethyl cellulose, of which 29 demonstrated activities. Endo-1, 4-β-glucanase activity was confirmed in the extracellular supernatant from seven isolates when grown at 4°C, and also when they were grown at 15°C. Cladosporium oxysporum and Geomyces sp. were shown to grow on a variety of synthetic cellulose substrates and to use cellulose as a nutrient source at temperate and cold temperatures. The research findings from the present study demonstrate that Antarctic filamentous fungi isolated from a variety of substrates (wood, straw, and food stuffs) are capable of cellulose degradation and can grow well at low temperatures.
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We thank David Harrowfield for helpful comments and insights, Nigel Watson and conservators of the Antarctic Heritage Trust for their support and cooperation during this study, support personnel of Scott Base for their assistance in conducting this research in Antarctica and Antarctica New Zealand for logistic support. This research was supported by the Vice-Chancellor Bryan Gould’s Fund of The University of Waikato and by the National Science Foundation Grants 0229570 and 0537143 to R.A. Blanchette. We also sincerely thank Margaret E. DiMenna from AgResearch, Ruakura, Hamilton, for assistance with identifying the fungi and mycological references.