Giant viruses played a key role in early life, study in Yellowstone hot spring suggests

Abi Cohen2024

In Yellowstone National Park, samples from algal mats (green) and nearby soil and rocks yielded DNA from thousands of new giant viruses. Credit: Debashish Bhattacharya

Following new studies, so-called “giant viruses” are believed to have been important in the early stages of life on Earth, based on research conducted at Yellowstone hot springs. Scientists, including RCEI Affiliate Debashish Bhattacharya, found evidence of ancient viral activity, suggesting these viruses could have influenced the development of early microscopic life forms. Previously, researchers assumed none of the giant viruses would be very old but their biomolecules told a different story. “The connections between the viruses and [their hosts] are ancient,” Bhattacharya says.

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