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Decade-long study reveals recurring patterns of viruses in the open ocean
Date:8/11/2011

(Santa Barbara, Calif.) Viruses fill the ocean and have a significant effect on ocean biology, specifically marine microbiology, according to a professor of biology at UC Santa Barbara and his collaborators.

Craig A. Carlson, professor with UCSB's Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology, is the senior author of a study of marine viruses published this week by the International Society for Microbial Ecology Journal, of the Nature Publishing Group.

The new findings, resulting from a decade of research, reveal striking recurring patterns of marine virioplankton dynamics in the open sea, which have implications regarding our understanding of cycling of nutrients in the world's oceans.

Marine viruses encompass enormous genetic diversity, affect biogeochemical cycling of elements, and partially control aspects of microbial production and diversity, according to the scientists. Despite their importance in the ocean, there has been a surprising lack of data describing virioplankton distributions over time and depth in open oceanic systems.

"Microbial interactions, between oceanic viruses and bacteria, take place on the nanometer scale but are extremely important in governing the flow of energy and the cycling of nutrients like carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus on the ecosystem scale of the world's oceans," said Carlson. The scientists studied microbes in the water column of the Saragasso Sea, off of Bermuda, for a decade.

"Although we can't see them with our naked eye, marine microbes are the dominant life forms in our oceans," said Rachel J. Parsons, first author and a microbial oceanographer with the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Science. "They comprise 95 percent of the living biomass in the oceans more than all the krill, fish and whales put together. They grow at rates many times faster than larger animals. As a result of their sheer numbers, and the rates at which they grow, they are responsible for t
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Contact: Gail Gallessich
gail.g@ia.ucsb.edu
805-893-7220
University of California - Santa Barbara
Source:Eurekalert  

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