Who said the ocean only harbors only treasure? In a major finding, at least 5500 new viruses in the ocean worldwide were discovered by researchers. In fact, these new viruses are very diverse so they need more classifications than the ones we already have.
To identify the new viruses that contains RNA as a genetic material, an international group of researchers utilized machines analysis and traditional evolutionary trees. As a matter of fact, they analyzed 35000 samples of water from all over the world.
In addition to some belonging to the 5 phyla we already have, the new viruses require additional 5 phyla to explain the extent of their diversity. According to researchers, thousands of the new RNA viruses needs the proposition of new 5 phyla while hundreds fit perfectly to the existing ones.
The 5 new phyla are Taraviricota, Pomiviricota, Paraxenoviricota, Wamoviricota and Arctiviricota. Also, the majority of the new RNA viruses fit into the first phylum. The name takes its inspiration from the Tara Oceans Consortium which offered the 35000 water samples.
From The Ohio State University, the lead author Matthew Sullivan gave a word about the ecological significance of the Taraviricota phylum due to their existence all across the ocean.
By studying all these viruses across the globe’s lands and oceans, we will gain a better understanding of the role of sea microbes in climate changes ocean’s adaptation. As oceans absorb up to half of the atmospheric carbon dioxide, marine microbes are like a biological pump knob that modulates carbon dioxide storage.
Why does the 5500 new viruses in the ocean need new phyla?
For analysis, viral particles were the base of previous DNA viruses’ studies, but extracting sequences from genes expressed by creatures adrift at sea is the new method. Besides, it was possible to narrow the analysis to RNA sequences harbouring RdRp gene necessary for replication.
However, gene sequences aren’t sufficient to understand the RdRp gene evolution for billions of years due to it’s sequence several divergences in position.
Therefore, machine learning techniques were important to overcome the massive sequence divergence. Thus, the classification of 44000 new sequences showed accuracy in classifying already existing viruses.
Using 3D representations and alignments of sequence data, it came obvious that the new 5500 viruses aren’t compatible with the existing 5 phyla belonging to the kingdom Orthornavirae. It is also claimed that there are at least 11 new Orthornavirae classes of RNA viruses in addition to the newly identified phyla.