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Scientists triple number of viruses found in oceans

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New York: In a study having far-reaching implications like helping preserve the environment through reducing excess carbon expelled by humans into the atmosphere, an international research team has catalogued surface ocean viruses treble the number of those known hitherto.

The study, led by scientists from Ohio State University, in the US, including University of Michigan biologist Melissa Duhaime, catalogues triple the number of known types of viruses living in waters around the globe and is expected to provide scientists a better idea about what role they play in nature.

Microbes in the oceans make half of the oxygen humans breathe, making viruses that infect these microbes particularly important.

“Our work not only provides a relatively complete catalogue of surface ocean viruses, but also reveals new ways that viruses modulate greenhouse gases and energy in the oceans,” said lead author Simon Roux of Ohio State.

The researchers processed viral samples collected by scientists aboard two exploration ships to Antarctica.

Roux analysed genetic information from those samples to catalogue 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 catalogue of ocean organisms around the world,” added Matthew Sullivan, the study’s senior author and an associate professor of microbiology.

“Scientists around the world are revealing how microbes impact our bodies, soil, air and oceans. As we improve our ability to study viruses, we’re seeing the role viruses play in these microbial functions,” Sullivan noted.

“These findings have implications far beyond ocean viral diversity and will help us better understand microbial diversity on a global scale,” added Duhaime in a paper published online in the journal Nature.

IANS

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