Decade-Long Study Reveals Recurring Patterns of Viruses in the Open Ocean

Marine Viruses. Credit: Rachel Parsons
August 11, 2011

Viruses fill the ocean and have a significant effect on ocean biology, specifically marine microbiology, according to a professor of biology at UC Santa Barbara and his collaborators.

Craig A. Carlson, professor with UCSB's Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology, is the senior author of a study of marine viruses published this week by The International Society for Microbial Ecology Journal, of the Nature Publishing Group.

The new findings, resulting from a decade of research, reveal striking recurring patterns of marine virioplankton dynamics in the open sea, which have implications regarding our understanding of cycling of nutrients in the world's oceans.

Marine viruses encompass enormous genetic diversity, affect biogeochemical cycling of elements, and partially control aspects of microbial production and diversity, according to the scientists. Despite their importance in the ocean, there has been a surprising lack of data describing virioplankton distributions over time and depth in open oceanic systems.

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