Scientists have discovered a completely new type of virus from the Mariana Trench
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Featured Image Credit: NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration. Sylvain Lefevre/Getty Images
Scientists have made a startling discovery in the deepest part of the ocean.
A team of researchers from the Ocean University of China in Qingdao was digging around the Mariana Trench and came across bacteria from the phylum Halomonas.
It was picked up at a depth of 8,900 metres below sea level, which is still a bit off the Trench's 11,000 metre bottom.
However, when they were examining viral genetic material from the Halomonas, they came across a virus.
It has been given the odd name of vB_HmeY_H4907 and is now 'the deepest known phage isolated to date'.
The team says 'it represents a novel abundant viral family in the ocean'.
Dr Min Wang, a marine virologist at the Ocean University of China, said in the published study: "Wherever there’s life, you can bet there are regulators at work. Viruses, in this case.”
According to Cosmos, they believe vB_HmeY_H4907 is a bacteriophage, which is a virus that infects and replicates within bacteria and it's 'part of a previously unknown viral family'.
They also think it is lysogenic, which means it infects the host but doesn't kill it.
"They are widely distributed in the ocean, suggesting a prevalence of this viral family in the deep sea," the study said.
"These findings expand our understanding of the phylogenetic diversity and genomic features of hadal lysogenic phages, provide essential information for further studies of phage-host interactions and evolution, and may reveal new insights into the lysogenic lifestyles of viruses inhabiting the hadal ocean."
The discovery was made in the Mariana Trench's 'hadal zone', which the study authors state is 'the planet’s least explored and most mysterious environment, and it is the deepest habitat for life on Earth’s surface'.
It's the region that extends from 6,000 to 11,000 metres below sea level and is named after Hades, the Greek god of the underworld.
It only occurs in trenches and represents less than 0.25 per cent of the world's seafloor.
So a discovery like this is very exciting.
The researchers behind the study told Motherboard: “Genomic analysis showed that vB_HmeY_H4907 was evolutionarily distant from other reference viruses and widely distributed in the ocean with high abundance, which further demonstrated the lysogenic life strategy of hadal phage and the necessity of isolating prophages from their hosts.
“Besides, the temperate phage vB_HmeY_H4907 is highly homologous to its host, which provides a theoretical basis for an in-depth analysis of the survival strategy of viruses in extremely harsh environments and their co-evolution with their hosts.”
Thankfully, it doesn't appear that this virus can use humans as a host, according to Vice.