by page popular mechanics, Scientists from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the Joint Genome Institute (JGI) of the US Department of Energy conducted a study in the Harvard Forest – an area about 15.5 km wide.2 west of Boston, Massachusetts (USA).
While trying to understand how bacteria respond to warming soils caused by climate change, they came across a collection of “giant” viruses many times larger than normal virus samples.
This huge virus-laden soil was transferred to the Max Planck Institute in Germany and examined with a special electron microscope to magnify objects with an electron beam.
After five years, the new results are officially published in early July 2023 on BioRXI – an open-access preprint repository for biological sciences, according to the scientific news site. science alert,
Accordingly, the piece of soil is filled with giant viruses, they are up to 635 nanometers (nm) wide/individual. Whereas viruses that are common in humans, such as the virus that causes the COVID-19 pandemic, are only 50–140 nanometers wide.
“We found that just a few hundred grams of forest soil contained more diversity than all the giant viruses ever isolated,” the scientists expressed their surprise.
One of these strange giant viruses has large, symmetrically arranged genera, which the researchers describe as a “tortoise” morphology.
Another virus has long tubes protruding all over it, reminiscent of the ancient Greek mythological figure Medusa. Scientists have named this structure “Gorgon”. In Greek mythology, the Gorgon is a female monster.
Another type is called “haircuts”, a large family of viruses with shaggy heads that look like troll dolls. There are also “Christmas star” viruses, which have a bilayered envelope shaped like two interlocking triangles, and “falcon” viruses, which have a structure similar to a falcon’s beak…
Microbiologist Mathias Fischer, electron microscopist Ulrike Meersdorff and biologist Jeffrey Blanchard said: “Just a handful of soil has led us into the complex world of viruses. Their origin and function are still being studied.