Virophages (things that ‘eat’ viruses) and the ecological succession of viruses in the Antarctic

My knowledge of the microbiome is clearly inadequate –  I had no idea that there was a class of organisms that actually are parasites of viruses themselves. Virophages, as there known, use a viruses reproductive machinery against them to restrict viral replication. I wonder how common the following scenario is: mammal gets infected by a parasitic organism that is already infected by a virus, yet this virus is parasitized by a virophage and so on….. it hurts my head! How (or if) the trophic levels of parasitism interact to shape the health of the final mammal (for example) host seems like a question well worth answering if possible).

What got me thinking about this was an excellent series of papers about RNA viral communities in Antarctic lakes by Alberto Lopez-Bueno and colleagues. Not only were they the first to discover RNA viruses in the Antarctic (10 000 gentotypes), they have described a temporal succession of viruses from spring to summer, and that viruses may impact the community composition of other microorganisms.


Figure from Cavicchioli&Erdman (2015) Molecular Ecology 

In their latest paper (link below), they show for the first time that ecological connectivity (how well viral habitats are connected) shapes the complexity of RNA virus communities in the Antarctic. Again this work shows the potential power of community based approaches coupled with molecular methods to provide fundamental insights into the complex world that we can’t see.

Here is the paper:

Here is a open access summary of their work:


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