After circumnavigating the globe and sampling the ocean from pole to pole, scientists have discovered nearly 200,000 marine virus populations.
In the marine ecosystem, tiny creatures called microbes make most of the biodiversity of the ocean out of its biomass. However, much less is known about the viruses – packets of genetic information that replicate themselves in other living things – that exist in the oceans. The scientists studied the viral community of marine viruses, their diversity and their function, in particular the effects on microbes. On Thursday, they announced the creation of a huge, global catalog of marine viruses, an important step in answering many of these questions.
"He is expanding our knowledge of the biological entities on our planet," Ann Gregory, author of the study and postdoctoral fellow at VIB-KU Leuven in Belgium, said Gizmodo.
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The analysis revealed 195,728 virus populations, 12 times more than the previous analysis of a smaller tare dataset. cell . A closer look revealed that these populations appear to be organized into five meta-communities, which researchers call ecological zones: Arctic; Antarctic; deeper than 2,000 meters; 150 to 1,000 meters; and temperate / tropical waters with depths of 0 to 150 meters. It is perhaps surprising that latitude did not predict viral diversity.
It's an exciting work. Microbes are perhaps the main driver of the biochemical processes of the ocean, and microbes are infected by viruses. "I think people are aware that viral diversity far exceeds that of large-scale microbial diversity," said Alison Buchan, a professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, to Gizmodo. "However, there have not been many studies that have attempted to quantify the extent of this diversity."
What do you do with such a big record? They mainly research to better understand the roles of all these viruses. Just as the rabies virus can increase the aggression of an infected animal to facilitate transmission, some of these viruses may be important for the ocean's chemical processes. Many of them also lead to the death of the microbes. And maybe this huge new supply of genetic information will contain something that will be of benefit to humans.
"Maybe you can win it for new genes," Gregory said. With this genetic information, researchers may discover novel antibiotics in May.
This record is certainly not comprehensive, warned Gregory and Zayed. It only includes viruses that contain DNA, not those that contain RNA (in simple terms, DNA is a pair of complementary strands of genetic material, while RNA is a single strand). Buchan also noted that this is more of a snapshot. Six months later, they may have had different results, she said.
This research is a great reminder that the oceans, as we know about life on Earth, are full of unknowns.
: Tara Ocean