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NIMBioS: Study Shows Large Variability in Abundance of Viruses That Infect Ocean Microorganisms

The new study was initiated as part of the NIMBioS Working Group on Ocean Viral Dynamics, shown here at its last meeting in January 2014. Credit: NIMBioS.

The new study was initiated as part of the NIMBioS Working Group on Ocean Viral Dynamics, shown here at its last meeting in January 2014. Credit: NIMBioS.

Viruses infect more than humans or plants. For microorganisms in the oceans – including those that capture half of the carbon taken out of the atmosphere every day – viruses are a major threat. But a paper to be published January 25 in the journal Nature Microbiology shows that there’s much less certainty about the size of these viral populations than scientists had long believed.

Collecting and re-examining more than 5,600 estimates of ocean microbial cell and virus populations recorded over the past 25 years, researchers have found that viral populations vary dramatically from location to location, and at differing depths in the sea. The study highlights another source of uncertainty governing climate models and other biogeochemical measures.Viruses infect more than humans or plants. For microorganisms in the oceans – including those that capture half of the carbon taken out of the atmosphere every day – viruses are a major threat. But a paper to be published January 25 in the journal Nature Microbiology shows that there’s much less certainty about the size of these viral populations than scientists had long believed.

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