Researchers at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa have discovered viruses living on the ocean floor, according to a press release.
The research team, from the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST), discovered that these viruses are infecting microorganisms that live in the ocean basement, the rocky crust of the ocean’s floor.
“The ocean basement was one of the last major habitats on Earth for which we had no information on the number and types of viruses present,” said Olivia Nigro, a post-doctoral researcher at SOEST, in the release.
The research team used a device called a Circulation Obviation Retrofit Kit to drill holes into the sea floor and extract samples of the fluids from the ocean basement. The samples were collected one and a half miles below the ocean’s surface.
The team has received funding from the National Science Foundation to collect more samples.
“Analyzing viruses from this remote habitat helps us flesh out the deep branches on the virus family tree so we can better understand their origins, their contributions to the history of life, and how they influence the activities of microbial life in the crust,” Nigro said.