The film “The Story of the Sea” released in 2003 uses a rich imagination and superb 3D technology (the stereoscopic effect produced by the visual difference between the two eyes), let us feel a wonderful underwater world, swaying water plants, colorful corals Clumps, cute clownfish, dancing jellyfish, lively little seahorses, fierce white sharks, etc. let us see, the richness of the flora and fauna in the ocean is no less inferior to the land. But in fact, the most in the ocean is not these animals and plants, not even bacteria, but viruses! The number of marine viruses far exceeds that of land.
The ocean is so unfathomable and unpredictable. The animals and plants that inspect the ocean itself are very laborious. How do you need to classify and count the viruses that need to be seen with an electron microscope?
Scientists do this by adding chemicals to the filtered seawater samples that tear all the proteins and biofilms. From the remaining debris, all the DNA that is mixed together can be extracted. These fragments are then sequenced and spliced into larger DNA fragments. Finally, they can compare these DNA sequences to the DNA sequences of known species, either by finding an exact matching known species or by finding a closely related known species with similar sequences, and if no similarity is found The known species of the sequence proves the discovery of a new species.
Marine virus family
In March 2011, a sailboat named “Tara” was set off from Chile. The ship was loaded with several scientists from various countries. The scientific research project named “Tara Ocean” was designed to inspect the world. The distribution and variety of viruses in the ocean. This is a journey that lasted for several years, and the results of the study greatly exceeded expectations.
In 2015, Tara scientists published results showing that 5,476 different marine viruses have been discovered, of which only 39 are known. In 2016, this data was updated to 15,222, which is close to the estimated number of marine viruses in the Tara Ocean scientists, but the total number of marine viruses they have published recently reached 195,728! About 90% of these viruses cannot be classified into any known virus classification, which means that we know only 10% of the virus types in the ocean so far!
About 40% of the newly discovered virus populations come from samples from 43 Arctic regions, which also subverts scientists’ judgments about the fact that the equatorial region has far more species than the polar regions. At least from the virus species, the number of Arctic regions is also Not inferior to the tropics.
Although nearly 200,000 viruses have been discovered, perhaps this is just the tip of the iceberg. Because of the limitations of the research methods, scientists only sequence DNA fragments, so all the newly discovered viruses belong to DNA viruses (viruses with DNA as genetic material). And how many RNA viruses (viruses that use RNA as a genetic material) like HIV, hepatitis B virus and avian influenza virus in the ocean? How big is the threat to marine life and humans? There is currently no more understanding.
We have a certain understanding of the dangers of viruses on land and in the atmosphere to humans, animals and plants. So what is the power of marine viruses?
Algae viruses have been found in more than 40 algae plants, which affect the photosynthesis of algae and eventually cleave algae; the starfish nuclear virus infects the starfish, causing the starfish to fester and then melt like a foam; Caryle virus spreads in sea lions, walruses, dolphins and sea bream. Infected animals develop herpes (a type of rash that grows on the skin), which can develop into pneumonia and encephalitis. Phage, a virus that infects bacteria.
However, the marine virus also has a good side. If we make good use of algae virus, we can control the occurrence of red tide. There are too many starfish in Australia, which feed on corals and pose a serious threat to the Great Barrier Reef. The starfish virus may help to improve this phenomenon.
The most surprising thing is that the virus may play an important role in maintaining the carbon cycle in the ocean. The ocean currently absorbs about half of the carbon emissions caused by humans, and this absorption continues to rise. Marine organisms convert the absorbed carbon dioxide into organic carbon and biomass. When organisms die from the virus, their carbon will be released into the ocean. Some of the carbon will be trapped in the ocean and will not be released. Into the atmosphere. Perhaps one day the virus will be used to change the carbon cycle and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which is undoubtedly an exciting news.