World’s first discovery of an organism that feeds exclusively on viruses

A species of fresh­wa­ter plank­ton was the first to thrive on virus­es, accord­ing to a new study by researchers at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Virus­es are often ingest­ed acci­den­tal­ly by a vari­ety of organ­isms and may even become food for cer­tain marine pro­tists. But for virus­es to become true run­ners up the food chain, they need to pro­vide con­sumers with sub­stan­tial amounts of ener­gy and nutrients.

Microor­gan­isms of the pro­tist genus Hal­te­ria are known to flap their wings while pro­pelling them through water with hair-like cil­ia. This lab­o­ra­to­ry sam­ple of cil­i­ates not only con­sumed the chlorovirus added to the envi­ron­ment, but the giant virus boost­ed the growth of Hal­te­ria, increas­ing its population.

Wide­spread con­sump­tion of chlorovirus­es in nature could have a large impact on the car­bon cycle in its recoil. Chlorovirus­es are known to degrade their hosts by infect­ing micro­scop­ic green algae and release nutri­ents such as car­bon into the envi­ron­ment, but con­sum­ing large amounts of the virus in this process may lim­it it. there is.

“If you do the math on the num­ber of virus­es, the num­ber of cil­i­ates and the amount of water, that’s a huge amount of ener­gy mov­ing up the food chain,” says ecol­o­gist John DeLonge of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Nebraska-Lincoln.

“If this is hap­pen­ing on the scale we think it is, it would com­plete­ly change the way we look at the Earth­’s car­bon cycle.”

This research has been going on for three years, and is based on the idea that the lat­ter can eat large amounts of virus­es and microbes in water, but there are not many pre­vi­ous stud­ies to refer to.

Virus­es con­tain amino acids, nucle­ic acids, lipids, nitro­gen and phos­pho­rus. Researchers thought some­thing must be feed­ing on all of this.

The researchers took sam­ples of pond water and added chlorovirus to see if any species treat­ed the virus as food rather than a threat. That’s why I came up with the idea of Hal­te­ria and Para­me­ci­um, which breed in water.

Para­me­ci­um feeds on virus­es, but their size and num­bers are almost unchanged. Har­te­ria, on the oth­er hand, feeds on it and uses the chlorovirus as a source of nutri­tion. The cil­i­ate pop­u­la­tion increased 15-fold in two days, and the virus pop­u­la­tion increased 100-fold.

“At first, it looked like there was a lot of Hal­te­ria,” DeLong says. “But then they were so big that I could pick up a few with a pipette tip and put them in a clean drop and count them.

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