Viruses in the deepest ocean environments are unexpectedly strong regulators of the linkurl:deep sea biosphere,; according to a paper published tomorrow (August 28) in Nature. By infecting and killing bacteria and other prokaryotes viruses are the main producers of the organic matter that sustains life at 1000 meters deep and below. By generating this biomass, viruses also make major contributions to the carbon cycle and other linkurl:geochemical processes.; "This shows that a very large amount of the carbon that reaches the sea floor is going through pathways that were commonly thought to be relatively minor," said linkurl:Jed Fuhrman,; an ocean biologist at the University of Southern California who was not involved in the study. "The whole idea that viruses have any significance in marine systems is only 15 to 20 years old." Approximately 65% of the Earth is dominated by deep sea, or benthic, ecosystems. The sea floor is one...

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to more than 35 years of archives, as well as TS Digest, digital editions of The Scientist, feature stories, and much more!