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Three times as many viruses in the oceans

A broad international study, led by researchers from The Ohio State University, has found the DNA of 15,000 more viruses in 104 deep- and surface-water samples taken from all oceans across the globe (Nature, September 21, 2016). The discovery has tripled the number of known marine viruses. Among the organisms whose DNA was identified are a cluster of viruses known as bacteriophage, which seem to play a vital role in the global cycling of nutrients like nitrogen and sulfur. When bacteriophage engage in their special skill of infecting and killing bacteria, they rid the oceans of roughly 40% of their bacteria every day, in turn altering the entire cycle of nutrients circulating in the oceans. The impact of these viruses on marine bacteria may offer clues on how to better understand global oceanic nitrogen and sulfur cycling.