More than 5,000 new types of viruses have been identified in the world’s oceans, according to a new study.
Study researchers analyzed tens of thousands of water samples from around the world, looking for viruses or RNA viruses that used RNA as hereditary material. The new coronavirus, for example, is a type of RNA virus. These viruses are studied in comparison with DNA viruses that use DNA As genetic material, the authors said.
The diversity of newly discovered viruses was so great that the researchers suggested doubling the number of taxonomic groups needed to classify RNA viruses, from currently five to ten phyla. (Era is a broad classification in biology that falls under “world.”)
“There is a lot of new variety here – and complete diversity [new] One of the languages, Taraviricota, is found in all oceans, indicating that it is ecologically important, said lead author Matthew Sullivan, professor of microbiology at Ohio State University. He said in a statement (Opens in a new tab).
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According to Sullivan, studies of RNA viruses typically focus on those that cause disease. (Some well-known RNA viruses include influenza, Ebola, and the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.) But this is only a “small slice” of RNA viruses on Earth, Sullivan said.
“We wanted to study it systematically at a large scale and explore an environment that no one has analyzed in depth,” Sullivan said in the statement.
For the study published Thursday (7 April) in the journal Science (Opens in a new tab)In the study, researchers analyzed 35,000 water samples taken from 121 sites across all five of the world’s oceans. The researchers are part of the Tara Ocean Consortium, a global project to study the impact of Climate change in the ocean.
The researchers said they examined genetic sequences extracted from small aquatic organisms known as plankton, which are common hosts for RNA viruses. They created sequences belonging to RNA viruses by searching for an ancient gene called RdRp, which is found in all RNA viruses but is absent from other viruses and cells. They identified more than 44,000 sequences with this gene.
But the RdRp gene is billions of years old and has evolved many times. Because the evolution of the gene is so ancient, it has been difficult for researchers to determine the evolutionary relationship between the sequences. So the researchers used machine learning to help organize them.
Overall, they identified about 5,500 new types of RNA viruses that fall into the five existing classes, as well as the five newly proposed classes, which the researchers named Taraviricota, Pomiviricota, Paraxenoviricota, Wamoviricota, and Arctiviricota.
Virus species in the Taraviricota family were particularly abundant in temperate and tropical waters, while viruses in the Arctiviricota family are abundant in the Arctic Ocean, the researchers write in conversation. (Opens in a new tab)
Understanding how the RdRp gene varies over time may lead to a better understanding of how early life develops. LandThe authors said.
“RdRp is presumed to be one of the oldest genes — it existed before DNA was needed,” study co-author Ahmed Zayed, a research scientist in Ohio State microbiology, said in the statement. Thus, we trace not only the origin of viruses, but also the origins of life.
Originally published on Live Science.
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