TechGiant viruses found on Greenland's ice surface that could help slow climate change

Giant viruses found on Greenland's ice surface that could help slow climate change

Images source: © NASA

2:07 PM EDT, June 7, 2024

Scientists have discovered giant viruses living on ice and snow surfaces for the first time in areas abundant with microalgae. Previously, such viruses were observed in oceans, soil, and even humans. Currently, researchers know little about the specific nature of these viruses. Still, they believe that controlling them may help reduce the melting of Greenland's ice, aiding the fight against global warming.

The ongoing spring in Greenland brings many species to life. As reported by Eureka Alert, this includes algae that, when blooming, darken large areas of ice. This darkening reduces the ice's ability to reflect sunlight, accelerating melting and exacerbating global warming. However, scientists hope their latest discovery will help combat the algae growing on Greenland's ice.

Viruses hidden in Greenland's ice

The discovered viruses, identified by Laura Perini from the Department of Environmental Science at Aarhus University and her colleagues, could be the solution.

"We don't know a lot about the viruses, but I think they could be useful as a way of alleviating ice melting caused by algal blooms. How specific they are and how efficient it would be, we do not know yet. But by exploring them further, we hope to answer some of those questions," she stated in a press release.

Eureka Alert notes that such viruses were first discovered in 1981 in oceans, where they infected green algae, and in soil, but they had never been found on the surface of ice and snow. Despite being considered giant, these viruses cannot be seen with the naked eye and were detected in samples taken from algae-rich areas in Greenland.

Giant viruses can reach a size of about 0.0001 inches, surpassing the size of most bacteria. Typically, the situation is quite different. Regular viruses range from 0.0000008 to 0.000008 inches, while a typical bacterium is about 0.00008 to 0.0001 inches. In other words, a typical virus is about 1000 times smaller than a bacterium, as explained by Eureka Alert.

Giant viruses are a relatively discovery, so little is known about them. Research shows that, unlike most other viruses, they have many active genes that allow them to repair, replicate, transcribe, and translate their DNA. Researchers hope expanding knowledge on this subject will reveal their exact role in the Greenland ecosystem and how they infect algae growing on the ice's surface.

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