VIRUSES that have never been seen before have been discovered hidden deep in the ocean.
Almost 200,000 of the infectious pathogens were found during a global marine life expedition, which took over 10 years to complete.
Alamy The scientists found 195,728 lurking in oceans all over the world
Most of the viruses are harmless to humans but can infect marine life, such as whales and crustaceans.
Scientists have said that the discovery of all these viruses is important because they can teach us more about life on the planet and the impact of climate change.
The viruses could help researchers calculate the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere as organisms in the sea help to recycle oxygen.
As oceans are known to absorb and store a lot of CO2, life in the ocean is needed to help covert this compound into other forms because too much CO2 could acidifying oceans and kill off marine life.
Gregory et al./ Elsevier The researchers made this map showing where in the world they found the viruses and at what depth, with the furthest depth being 4,000 metres down
A. Deniaud/Fondation Tara Ocean Scientists collected samples from a boat called Tara
Therefore, this vast number of viruses could actually be a positive thing from a climate change perspective.
Lots of the viruses were found in the ocean, which surprised the researchers as they thought the hostile climate wouldn’t support much life.
The researchers have created a distribution map of the viruses they found in oceans across the world and have sectioned them into five zones, which could be useful for future researchers.
They collected samples at depths of up to 4,000 metres down.
Alamy Lots of the viruses were found in the arctic ocean
A. Deniaud Garcia/ Fondation Tara Ocean This is the boat that was used in the expedition, pictured here in the Arctic in 2013
Microbiologist Matthew Sullivan took part in the research and explained: “Having a new map of where these viruses are located can help us understand this ocean carbon ‘pump’ and, more broadly, biogeochemistry that impacts the planet.
“Previous ocean ecosystem models have commonly ignored microbes, and rarely included viruses, but we now know they are a vital component to include.”
Before this study, only around 15,000 ocean viruses had been confirmed.
The research has been published in the scientific journal Cell.
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In other news, melting sea ice and permafrost could cost the world £54trillion, according to the world’s most advanced economic study on the cost of climate change in the Arctic.
Another recent permafrost study found that diseases laying dormant in ancient ice could soon be unleashed due to climate change.
And, scientists have warned that two thirds of ice in the Alps will melt by 2100.
Are you surprised by the number of viruses discovered? Let us know in the comments…
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