Arctic: giant viruses found in a lake

To Less than 800 kilometers from the North Pole, Milne Fjord’s Lake Epishelf is a one-of-a-kind freshwater lake that floats above the Arctic Ocean, held in place only by a sheet of ice. The lake is infected with unusual “giant viruses”, reports Slate. Researchers from Laval University in Quebec did their first research on the abundance of viruses in this lake.

The remote lake in the High Arctic could only be reached by helicopter, weather permitting. The research team took water samples and sequenced all the DNA present in the lake water, which allowed them to identify the viruses and microorganisms it contained.

Global warming limits researchers

Through their research, the scientists noticed that these funny viruses, present in fresh water, affected microscopic algae just below the limit with salt water. Nevertheless, the details of this ecosystem remain obscure, as so far most of these viruses are only known through fragments of their sequences. So, in most cases, scientists don’t yet know how viruses influence which microbes they infect or which viruses inhabit which microbes.

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Rapidly rising temperatures are limiting the time microbiologists have to get an accurate picture of biodiversity. “The ice shelf holding the lake in place deteriorates every year and when it breaks the lake will spill into the Arctic Ocean and be lost,” said one of the researchers, Alexander Culley.

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