Giant Viruses Devour the World’s Oceans Just in Time for Halloween

Coccolithovirus, which has about 400,000 base pairs. Public Domain image from Wikipedia.

An article in The Scientist discusses the earthshaking changes in the world of virus genomes. Seriously! Giant viruses. Who knew it was gonna be such an exciting Halloween!

The big news is not (just) the size of the virus itself, but the number of base pairs in its genome. (Number of base pairs is how you measure the size of a genome, apparently). Most viruses carry their genetic material in DNA form; a virus with RNA is a retrovirus (retroviruses are less common and tend to have fewer base pairs). While humans have about 3.2 billion base pairs, the first DNA virus to be completely sequenced, Phi X 174, has only about 5,400 bases.

But now researchers reporting in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences have discovered a giant marine virus with 700,000 base pairs. It’s the first giant virus discovered in a marine organism…READ THE REST OF THIS POST ON TECHYUM.

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