(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists have discovered traces of viruses hidden in an ancient group of microbes that have contributed to the emergence of complex life on Earth, ranging from fungi to humans. The work of a group of virologists was published in the journal Nature Microbiology.
Microbes known as Asgardian archaea inhabit the ocean floor and existed on Earth before the first eukaryotic cells appeared.
It was previously believed that complex life forms on the planet arose during the infection of Asgardian archaea viruses, but until now there was no evidence for this theory.
To confirm the hypothesis, the researchers used a deep-sea submersible to collect samples of bottom sediments and microbes from a basin in the Gulf of California.
The scientists then searched the DNA of the archaea for evidence of past viral infection using the CRISPR method, with which they were able to find the immune response of microbes to viruses in the form of stored pathogen DNA.
During the work, scientists discovered six viruses that infect two types of archaea Lokiarchaeota and Helarchaeota, named after the Scandinavian gods Loki and Hel. The researchers also named the viruses after Norse mythological creatures, including the giant wolf Fenrir and the dragon Nidhogg.
Similarly, in another study, scientists found three groups of family-level viruses, which they named after the three norns (in Norse mythology, three women, sorceresses, endowed with a miraculous gift to determine the fate of people and gods) – Wyrd, Verdandi and Skuld.
By working with viral DNA, the researchers were able to determine what viruses might look like. For example, viruses named after Verdandi have tails that extend beyond the outer shell, and Wyrd pathogens are shaped like a lemon.
Contact us: [email protected]