Jul 23, 2019 | Updated: 09:13 AM EDT

Nearly 200,000 Viruses Discovered in Decade-Long Ocean Expedition

May 03, 2019 10:16 PM EDT

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Scientist Nick Graham does a fish count
(Photo : Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

For the past years, a group of scientists was sent to an expedition to carry out a survey on marine life. The crew spent over a decade on the water investigating the science of oceans and the clues that it gave on how the planet is evolving.

The expedition was set to cover pole to pole distances. During this expedition, samples are collected by scientists and were analyzed for data.

In the study, the researchers revealed finding 195,728 viruses lurking underwater. Before the team has concluded their research, only 15,000 of these ocean viruses were known to the scientific community.

The researchers pointed out that their findings can teach the world more about the evolution of life on the planet and the potential consequences that climate change could impose.

Matthew Sullivan from the Ohio State University stated that even if viruses are tiny and almost impossible to see, they still bear great impacts because they exist in such huge numbers.

Sullivan pointed out that included in the research is a distribution map that is foundational for those who desire to study how the viruses manipulate the ecosystem.

The team of scientists categorizes the viruses into five distinct ecological zones. This zones includes (2) all depths in the Arctic and the Antarctic region, and (3) three distinct depths of the temperate and tropical regions.

According to the survey results, the researchers were expecting the most biodiversity in the arctic ocean, which turned out to be teeming with life.

Even if the team discovered around 200,000 viruses, they estimate around tens of millions of viruses to exist in the oceans. Scientists pointed out that there are also other viruses that exist outside of water. Identifying more of these viruses can teach humanity about life itself, and not just limited to marine life.
In their study, the researchers also identified new strains of viruses from analyzing other microbes and living creatures that thrive in the oceans.

The comprehensive research helps scientists to accurately calculate the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, noting that the oceans soak up and store carbon dioxide and marine organisms help recycle oxygen.

This means that if more life below the surface of the water, more carbon dioxide is converted into organic carbon and biomass.

Sullivan further explains that having a new map of where the viruses are located can aid in understanding the ocean as a carbon pump and the biogeochemistry that impacts the planet. The scientist added that previous ocean data system models have commonly ignored microbes. He then pointed out that these are vital components and should be included in the models.

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