Thursday, August 7, 2008

A smaller flea....

'a Flea Hath smaller Fleas that on him prey, And these have smaller Fleas to bite 'em, And so proceed ad infinitum.'
1733 Swift Poems II. 651

In the latest illustration of Swift's rule scientists yesterday published the first description of a giant virus that falls ill through infection by another virus.

This is re-igniting a debate about whether viruses are 'alive' or not “The fact that it can get sick makes it more alive.

The giant virus which serves as the host (known as mamavirus), is itself found within single celled amoebae. A study of ocean water has revealed an abundance of genetic sequences closely related to giant viruses, leading to a suspicion that they are a common parasite of plankton.

“I think ultimately we will find a huge number of novel viruses in the ocean and other places,” Suttle says — 70% of viral genes identified in ocean surveys have never been seen before. “It emphasizes how little is known about these organisms — and I use that term deliberately.”

This isn't directly relevant to what we've been discussing this week, but the blog is also a place for breaking news.

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