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Thousands of previously unexplained viruses discovered in huge ocean surveys

The first global investigation of marine RNA viruses was Thousands of new viruses discovered, some of which play a central role in trapping carbon on the ocean floor. From the report: Between 2009 and 2012, researchers aboard a ship called Tara collected seawater samples from oceans around the world. Ohio State University’s Guillermo Dominguez-Huerta and his colleagues have previously examined hundreds of thousands of DNA viruses in these samples and found that they are concentrated in five major ecoregions, the most diverse in the Arctic Ocean. But this was only half the story. The oceans are also full of viruses whose genomes are made of another genetic material called RNA that cells use to direct protein synthesis. Although analyzing DNA viruses with conventional methods was relatively easy, researchers had to devise improved techniques to distinguish the viral RNA from RNA produced by other organisms swimming in each sample.

Now, Dominguez-Huerta and his colleagues have published the largest-ever investigation of an RNA virus in the ocean using Tara’s samples. Researchers have identified more than 5,000 RNA viruses in the ocean, almost all of which are new to science. “It expands our view of how much diversity exists,” said Curtis Suttle of the University of British Columbia, who was not involved in the study. The team specifically focused on the role viruses play in carbon sequestration. Every day, huge numbers of dead plankton sink to the bottom of the ocean, carrying carbon into their bodies, where they are potentially buried for millions of years. Known as the biological carbon pump, this process emits 12 gigatons of carbon per year. This is about a third of total annual CO2 emissions.

Thousands of previously unexplained viruses discovered in huge ocean surveys

Source link Thousands of previously unexplained viruses discovered in huge ocean surveys

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