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Potential Importance of Viruses in Marine Ecosystems Essay

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Introduction
Viruses are the most abundant organisms in the sea, with approximately ten billion in every litre of sea water(1, 2). Viruses are very small at generally 20-200nm, and have a simple structure consisting of genetic material with a protein coat, and sometimes a lipid envelope(2). Due to their simplicity, viruses rely on exploiting living cells and using the host’s cellular machinery to replicate(3). Irrespective of their size, viruses have been found to have a significant influence on many ecological processes and biogeochemical cycles in marine ecosystems(2, 4). Studies suggest that viruses contribute to nutrient recycling through the infection and lysis of marine microorganisms, which in turn controls the composition and diversity of microbial communities in marine environments(1, 5). Genes involved in photosynthesis have also been found in viral genomes, leading researchers to believe that proteins involved in bacterial photosynthesis originate from bacteriophages, viruses which infect the bacteria(6, 7). Research on marine viruses is important because it allows us to gain a deeper understanding of ocean ecology and the driving forces behind marine and global ecosystems(8).

Discussion
Every second, approximately 1023 viral infections occur in the ocean(8). These infections affect the mortality of marine organisms and are subsequently a major force behind global geochemical cycles and the structure of microbial populations and communities(4, 5, 8). Microorganisms constitute 90% of the living biomass in the sea, and it is estimated that 20% of this biomass is eliminated by viruses every day(8).Viruses influence the mortality of bacteria in the ocean and therefore regulate both bacterial populations and those in subseq...


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...olonen AC, Rohwer F, Chisholm SW. 2004. Transfer of photosynthesis genes to and from Prochlorococcus viruses. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 101:11013-11018.
17. Lindell D, Jaffe JD, Johnson ZI, Church GM, Chisholm SW. 2005. Photosynthesis genes in marine viruses yield proteins during host infection. Nature 438:86-89.
18. Mann NH, Clokie MR, Millard A, Cook A, Wilson WH, Wheatley PJ, Letarov A, Krisch HM. 2005. The genome of S-PM2, a "photosynthetic" T4-type bacteriophage that infects marine Synechococcus strains. Journal of bacteriology 187:3188-3200.
19. Brussaard CPD, Wilhelm SW, Thingstad F, Weinbauer MG, Bratbak G, Heldal M, Kimmance SA, Middelboe M, Nagasaki K, Paul JH, Schroeder DC, Suttle CA, Vaque D, Wommack KE. 2008. Global-scale processes with a nanoscale drive: the role of marine viruses. ISME J 2:575-578.



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