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  • Writer's pictureSarah Brightmann

Deepest Oceanic Virus Found in the Mariana Trench

Scientists have made a remarkable discovery in the depths of the Mariana Trench, unearthing a viral inhabitant that is believed to be the deepest of its kind ever found. This virus, named vB_HmeY_H4907, preys on specific bacteria and represents a mysterious addition to the complex ecosystem thriving in the trench's extreme conditions.

The Mariana Trench, located in the Pacific Ocean and renowned as the deepest oceanic trench on Earth, reaches depths of up to 36,000 feet underwater. Despite its harsh environment, the trench teems with life, including fish, shrimp, and various microbes. Wherever life exists, viruses often follow, although the classification of viruses as living entities remains a subject of debate due to their reliance on hijacking host organisms' machinery for reproduction.

This newfound virus, vB_HmeY_H4907, was discovered by a team of researchers from China and Australia. It was isolated from sediment collected at a depth of 8,900 meters, or over 29,000 feet. Genetic analysis revealed that this virus belongs to a previously unidentified family of viruses, which the scientists have named Suviridae. Notably, vB_HmeY_H4907 is a bacteriophage, a virus that employs bacteria to replicate itself.

Min Wang, a virologist at the Ocean University of China and one of the study authors, stated, "To our best knowledge, this is the deepest known isolated phage in the global ocean."

This virus exhibits a unique relationship with Halomonas bacteria, a group known to inhabit deep-sea environments and hydrothermal vents. The virus and bacteria share a relatively friendly coexistence. The virus is genetically similar to its host and is classified as a lysogenic phage, meaning it inserts its genetic material into the bacteria without typically killing it.

Instead, both the virus and bacteria replicate simultaneously. The researchers speculate that vB_HmeY_H4907 may have co-evolved with these bacteria to ensure its survival in the challenging conditions of the Mariana Trench.

The research team intends to delve deeper into the molecular interactions between deep-sea phages and their hosts, and they remain committed to exploring other unusual viruses thriving in the world's most inhospitable environments.

According to Wang, "Extreme environments offer optimal prospects for unearthing novel viruses," highlighting the potential for further discoveries in these remote and extreme locations.

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