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Researchers find giant viruses in Greenland's ice sheet for the first time |  Sciences

Researchers find giant viruses in Greenland's ice sheet for the first time | Sciences

Part of the Greenland ice sheet has become dark due to the presence of algae. -Photo: Shunan Feng

For the first time, researchers have discovered Giant viruses In the Greenland ice sheet it They infect algae and may regulate their growth.

This discovery was announced by scientists at Aarhus University in Denmark, in an article published in the journal Microbiome, and it may have implications for the study of ice melting in the Arctic. (understand below).

According to the study, these viruses measure approx 2.5 µm. For comparison, common viruses range in size from 20 to 200 nanometers (1 nanometer = 0.001 micrometer), while bacteria generally measure between 2 and 3 micrometers.

Microorganisms were of such sizes It was first discovered in 1981When researchers found them in the ocean.

These viruses specialize in infecting marine green algae. Later, it was found in terrestrial soil and even in humans. but, This is the first time giant viruses have been found inhabiting the microalgae-dominated surface of ice and snow in Greenland.

One of the samples in which researchers found giant viruses. At first glance, it looks like just dirty water, but the bag is full of microorganisms, one of which is dark ice algae. — Photo: Laura Perini

Researchers discovered these unusual viruses during sampling campaigns in Greenland, including locations such as the southern side of the ice sheet and three glaciers on the eastern side.

Samples were collected from sediment Cryoconite (dust on the surface of a glacier), ice cores and layers Green and red snow (A type of snow colored by algae growth).

Their main hypothesis is that these viruses feed on the algae found in these snows and could act as a natural control mechanism for their blooms.

“We still know little about these viruses, but I think they could be useful in reducing ice melt caused by algal blooms. We don't know how specific and effective they are, but by studying them further, we hope to answer these questions,” says Laura. Perini is a postdoctoral researcher from the Department of Environmental Sciences at Aarhus University.

Specimens with groups removed from ice. A small pipette containing many microorganisms. — Photo: Laura Perini

Although they are gigantic, these viruses cannot be seen with the naked eye, and scientists have not yet been able to visualize them Not even with an optical microscope.

🧬🦠 The discovery was made only because of the analysis of… DNA In the samples collected. By examining this comprehensive data set for specific genes, The researchers found sequences similar to those found in already known giant viruses.

To make sure the viral DNA was not from a long-dead microorganism, they also extracted all of the samples' messenger RNA, molecules that serve as instructions for building the proteins the virus needs. If they are present, the virus is active.

In the total mRNA sequenced from the samples, we found the same marks as in the total DNA, so we know it was transcribed. This means that the viruses are alive and active.

—Laura Perini, postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Environmental Sciences at Aarhus University.

Algae darkens the ice, making it reflect less sunlight and melt more quickly. — Photo: Laura Perini

Scientists now hope that, through further studies, they can better understand giant viruses and their role in the Arctic ecosystem.

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