Tuesday, January 26, 2016
Simons Foundation Study Shows New Insights on Ocean Microoganisms
Viruses infect more than humans or plants. For microorganisms in the oceans -- including those that capture half of the carbon taken out of the atmosphere every day -- viruses are a major threat. But a paper to be published Jan. 25, 2016 in the journal Nature Microbiology shows that there's much less certainty about the size of these viral populations than scientists had long believed.
Collecting and re-examining more than 5,600 estimates of ocean microbial cell and virus populations recorded over the past 25 years, researchers have found that viral populations vary dramatically from location to location, and at differing depths in the sea. The study highlights another source of uncertainty governing climate models and other biogeochemical measures.
"What was surprising was that there was not a constant relationship, as people had assumed, between the number of microbial cells and the number of viruses," said Joshua Weitz, an associate professor in the School of Biology at the Georgia Institute of Technology and one of the paper's two senior co-authors. "Because viruses are parasites, it was assumed that their number would vary linearly with the number of microbes. We found that the ratio does not remain constant, but decreases systematically as the number of microbes increases."
The research, which involved authors from 14 different institutions, was initiated as part of a working group from the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS), which is supported by the National Science Foundation. The research was completed with additional support from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund and the Simons Foundation. . .