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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Giants in the Ice: Going viral

Siberian Permafrost Zone  (Photo by Victor M. Vicente Selvas) 
What’s been frozen for about 30,000 years, yet still going strong?  A giant virus, that’s what.

Stephanie Pappas of Live Science reports that deep within the Siberian permafrost lie “potentially infectious” (although not necessarily to humans) giant viruses.

One that was recently discovered is called Mollivirus sibericum.  Pappas explains that this particular virus had “infected single-celled amoebas during the Upper Paleolithic, or late Stone Age.”

Mollivirus is just one of four known families of giant viruses.  The other three are Megavirus, Pithovirus and Pandoravirus.  Some of these giants are so relatively huge that they can be seen with an ordinary microscope.

The good news is that these ancient viruses may provide clues as to how early earthly life evolved.  That’s because viruses may have “roots in the very origins of DNA and RNA.”

The less-cheerful news is that we might inadvertently (through drilling, mining, etc.) “resurrect” some giant threats to humanity.   


Copyright September 22, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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