When I Hike I Think of Viruses

Lab Note #4
Jan 27, 2015

Recently my family and I went for a hike around the Leon Sink Geological Area just outside of Tallahassee. The sink holes in this area are formed when water erodes away the soft rocks under the water table, such as limestone. Walking along the trail you can see many sink holes, some filled with water like small ponds of varying colors, and others dry, as they call them, just depressions in the earth where the limestone below has been eroded away but the water has not burst out through the top layer.

This one was huge and very deep!

Isn't nature amazing?

While exploring the different sink holes along the trail I began wondering what kinds of viruses might be in them? One neat fresh water virus was discovered a few years ago is in the family Marseilleviridae, and was first found in water in a cooling tower in France. These viruses are MASSIVE! They infect Amoebas and are 10 times the size of the viruses I study. Unlike the viruses I study these are double stranded DNA, much like our genomes. Large genomes, like ours or these viruses, require a stable genetic material and as such tend to have double stranded DNA genomes. Single stranded DNA is less stable and therefore is only found in much smaller organisms, such as the tiny viruses I study. Crazy to think of something as small as a viruses needing the same genetic material as you because they are technically "large" isn't it?!?

Below is a picture of a Marseilleviridae virus that was taken through a microscope.

This awesome picture is an amoeba that is currently infected with Marseilleviridae viruses.

If you want to see more viruses get discovered please check out my project page.

*All of the information about Marseilleviridae and the viral pictures in this lab note came out of the article by Colson et al. 2013, titled ''Marseilleviridae'', a New Family of Giant Viruses Infecting Amoebae.

*Leon Sink pictures were taken by me.

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