An international team has identified nearly 200,000 species of marine viruses, a figure well over 15,000 known so far.
"Viruses are those little things you can not even see, but because they are in such huge quantities, they are important," says study author Matthew Sullivan, a Ohio State University microbiologist. .s).
He explained that his team has prepared a map of the spread of these viruses that can be used to see how they manipulate the ecosystem: "There are many things that have surprised us for our discoveries," he said.
One of them is the discovery of the existence of almost 200,000 marine viruses, which, according to the analysis, are organized in five ecological zones in the ocean, something unexpected for scientists due to the liquid nature of the sea and the complexity. their regions.
Despite the paradigm applicable to larger organisms that species diversity is greater near the equator and lower in the vicinity of poles, researchers have collected a large number of samples in the Arctic compared to previous studies and have found a focus of biodiversity in this ocean.
These samples were collected between 2009 and 2013 as part of the Tara Ocean Study Project, which aims to predict the impact of climate change.
After this compilation, the samples were selected and sent to a dozen laboratories. Experts focused not only on viruses but on other types of microbes and creatures. "We chose the samples to analyze the organisms by classifying them by size, from viruses to fish eggs," Sullivan explains.
Research has significant implications for understanding the impact of ocean micro-organisms on the atmosphere: "Over the last 20 years, we have learned that half of the oxygen we breathe comes from marine organisms," the microbiologist explained.
At the same time, he added, "the oceans absorb half of the carbon dioxide into the atmosphere." The scientist pointed out that because of the complex chemical processes, the increase in carbon dioxide levels on the surface acidifies the oceans.
"However, if carbon dioxide is converted to organic carbon and biomass, then it can become a particle and sink into deep oceans," he said.
This is a good result to help mitigate human-induced climate change and we learn that viruses can contribute to its collapse.