(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln have described a type of microorganism that can only survive on a diet of viruses.
These are Halteria, microscopic ciliates that inhabit fresh water bodies around the world. It is known that chloroviruses are present in abundance in water bodies.
They penetrate microscopic green algae and contribute to their death. Infected algae explode, releasing carbon and other elements into the environment. This carbon subsequently becomes food for other microorganisms.
A new study has shown that some ciliates are able to absorb viruses themselves. The scientists collected water samples from the pond, isolated a number of microbes, and added chloroviruses.
A few days later, the population of halteria ciliates in the samples increased by about 15 times. The number of viruses over the same period decreased by 100 times.
The scientists noted that no other food sources for halteria other than viruses were found in the samples.
However, the ciliates not only survived, but thrived and multiplied. In control samples without viruses, the halteria population did not grow.
The authors of the study calculated that in a small pond, ciliates can absorb up to 10 trillion viruses per day.
“If this happens on the scale that we think it could, it should completely change our view of the global carbon cycle,” the text of the scientific paper says.
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