Giant viruses are discovered lurking on the Greenland Ice Sheet

Giant viruses are discovered lurking on the Greenland Ice Sheet Giant viruses are discovered lurking on the Greenland Ice Sheet
  • Scientists have discovered 'giant viruses' while exploring Greenland Ice Sheet
  • They believe they could help to alleviate ice melting caused by algal blooms

The idea of a giant virus lurking on a vast ice sheet might sound like the plot to the latest science fiction blockbuster.

But it's become a reality, after researchers discovered giant viruses while exploring the Greenland ice sheet.

Before you panic that the viruses could spark the next pandemic, there's good news.

Scientists from Aarhus University say the viruses could actually be a good thing.

'We don't know a lot about the viruses, but I think they could be useful as a way of alleviating ice melting caused by algal blooms,' said Laura Perini, who led the study.

On the Greenland Ice Sheet, algae lay dormant on the ice until the springtime, when they start to bloom and blacken large areas of the ice.

When the ice blackens, its ability to reflect the sun diminishes and this accelerates the melting of the ice, thereby exacerbating global warming.

But researchers believe the newly discovered giant viruses might help with the snow algae growth - and maybe in the long run reduce some of the ice from melting.

'How specific [the viruses] are and how efficient it would be, we do not know yet,' Ms Perini said.

'But by exploring them further, we hope to answer some of those questions.'

Giant viruses were first discovered in 1981, when researchers found them in the ocean.

These viruses had specialised in infecting green algae in the sea.

Later, giant viruses were found in soil on land and even in humans.

However, the new discovery marks the first time that giant viruses have been found living on the surface ice and snow dominated by microalgae, according to Ms Perini.

'We analysed samples from dark ice, red snow and melting holes (cryoconite),' she said.

'In both the dark ice and red snow we found signatures of active giant viruses.

'And that is the first time they've been found on surface ice and snow containing a high abundance of pigmented microalgae.

'A few years ago everyone thought this part of the world to be barren and devoid of life. But today we know that several microorganisms live there - including the giant viruses.

'There's a whole ecosystem surrounding the algae. Besides bacteria, filamentous fungi and yeasts, there are protists eating the algae, different species of fungi parasitising them and the giant viruses that we found, infecting them.

'In order to understand the biological controls acting on the algal blooms, we need to study these last three groups.'

Because giant viruses are a relatively new discovery, not a lot is known about them.

In contrast to most other viruses, they have a lot of active genes that enable them to repair, replicate, transcribe and translate DNA.

But why that is and exactly what they use it for is not known.

'Which hosts the giant viruses infect, we can't link exactly. Some of them may be infecting protists while others attack the snow algae. We simply can't be sure yet,' Ms Perini said.

The scientist is working hard on discovering more about the giant viruses and has more research coming out soon.

'We keep studying the giant viruses to learn more about their interactions and what is exactly is their role in the ecosystem,' she added.

'Later this year we'll release another scientific with some more info on giant viruses infecting a cultivated microalgae thriving on the surface ice of the Greenland Ice Sheet.'

Read more
  • https://www.msn.com/en-ph/news/other/giant-viruses-are-discovered-lurking-on-the-greenland-ice-sheet/ar-BB1nXrd2?ocid=00000000

Related

Exactly what that cup of coffee does inside your body minute by minute

Exactly what that cup of coffee does inside your body minute by minute

News
Reopen MRT-3 train probe, Senate urged

Reopen MRT-3 train probe, Senate urged

News
Scot to sell off world's biggest collection of speedway memorabilia

Scot to sell off world's biggest collection of speedway memorabilia

News
9/11 as seen from space and other out of this world photographs

9/11 as seen from space and other out of this world photographs

News
Parents whose baby got liver damage from bottled water given $3billion

Parents whose baby got liver damage from bottled water given $3billion

News
Kim Jong Un welcomes Putin with mighty military parade in North Korea

Kim Jong Un welcomes Putin with mighty military parade in North Korea

News
Ford F-150 Lightning: How Much Does It Cost To Charge It?

Ford F-150 Lightning: How Much Does It Cost To Charge It?

News
IndyCar veteran Conor Daly to make ARCA debut at Mid-Ohio

IndyCar veteran Conor Daly to make ARCA debut at Mid-Ohio

News