Just when you think the ocean couldn't get any weirder, it turns out there are viruses in it.

A new study reveals there are almost 200,000 distinct viral populations in the ocean.

That’s a lot more viruses than we previously thought.

A liter of sea water contains anywhere between 1-10 billion virus particles—most of which we don’t know anything about. Our understanding of these elusive microbial communities has just been coming into focus over the last few decades, and this new research is a huge step toward better understanding our oceans.

Previously, highest number we had for ocean viral populations was about 15,000, but this new study pretty much blows that already impressive number out of the water.

From 2009 to 2013, researchers analyzed samples from about 80 different sites all over the world, from sunny surfaces to thousands of meters down into the depths. They found more than 180,000 additional unique viral populations, bringing the total number of distinct viral populations to almost 200,000. And the diversity of these new populations is nothing short of impressive.

Understanding how viruses interact with bacteria is important to human health and viruses also play essential roles outside of our bodies.

Viruses kill so many marine microbes they actually release a really significant amount of carbon back into the environment, playing a critical role in the food chain, all the way down at the very bottom.

Viruses continue to be very mysterious and though this project uncovered a lot of new populations, there is still a lot we just don’t know.

Find out more about the newest viral populations, how they were discovered, and more on this episode of Elements.

#Viruses #Ocean #Discovery #Science #Seeker #Elements

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"Lined up end to end, Earth’s marine viruses would stretch 10 million light-years beyond Earth, bypassing some 50 nearby galaxies and tumbling deep into interstellar space."

Ecogenomics and potential biogeochemical impacts of globally abundant ocean viruses


"A total of 15,222 epipelagic and mesopelagic viral populations were identified, comprising 867 viral clusters (defined as approximately genus-level groups7,8). This roughly triples the number of known ocean viral populations."

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"Scientists have confirmed that viruses can kill marine algae called diatoms and that diatom die-offs near the ocean surface may provide nutrients and organic matter for recycling by other algae, according to a new study."

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