Moore Foundation grantees at Ohio State University report they’ve tripled the known types of viruses living in waters around the globe, and now have a better idea what role they play in nature.
Their work will likely have far-reaching implications, including ultimately helping to preserve the environment through reducing excess carbon humans put into the atmosphere.
The oceans currently soak up half of that carbon, but that comes at the cost of acidifying the oceans, which puts some ocean-dwellers, including shellfish, at risk. Understanding how microbes and viruses interact is critical to any possible management efforts.
Led by senior author Matthew Sullivan, associate professor of microbiology and an investigator in the foundation's Marine Microbiology Initiative, a team of researchers processed viral samples collected by scientists aboard the two ships.
Simon Roux, a postdoctoral scholar in Sullivan's laboratory, analyzed genetic information from those samples to catalog 15,222 genetically distinct viruses and group them into 867 clusters that share similar properties.
"Ten years ago I would never have dreamed that we could establish such an extensive catalog of ocean organisms around the world," said Sullivan. "Scientists around the world are revealing how microbes impact our bodies, soil, the air and the oceans. As we improve our ability to study viruses, we’re seeing the role viruses play in these microbial functions."
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