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These viruses are really cool

Researchers investigating viruses and other microorganisms in Arctic and Antarctic lakes have found similarities between ecosystems at both poles. This suggests that microorganisms are not latitudinally distributed like larger organisms, overturning a long-held belief about viruses and bacteria.
These viruses are really cool
Viruses play a major role in regulating ecosystems, especially those dominated by microorganisms, such as Arctic and Antarctic lakes. However, as virology research has focused on pathogenic viruses, almost nothing is understood about how these ecosystems function.

The EU-funded COOLVIROMES (Metagenomic analysis of viral and microbial communities from global high-latitude pristine environments as a model to understand the influence of viruses on the ecosystem) initiative addressed this lack of knowledge by investigating the metagenomics structure of these Arctic and Antarctic lake communities.

COOLVIROMES undertook several sampling trips to Arctic and Antarctic lakes, using next-generation sequencing to see which bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms were present. The project's first major finding was the extremely high viral diversity in these lakes – researchers identified thousands of different viral species.

Using sophisticated software, the team analysed the metagenomic data to understand community structure and compare these cold-weather ecosystems to temperate lake ecosystems. An important finding of this research was the large number of single-stranded viruses in cold lakes that have never been identified elsewhere.

Overall, COOLVIROMES found a high number of viral and bacterial taxa that were globally distributed. Finally, while there were a few species in common between Arctic and Antarctic sites, what these lakes shared most was a similar ecosystem structure.

The new knowledge and understanding generated by COOLVIROMES will contribute to a growing global awareness of the importance of viruses in our environment.

Related information

Keywords

Viruses, Arctic, Antarctic, ecosystems, microorganisms, COOLVIROMES, metagenomics
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