The battle between virus and other living forms are not limited on the land but extend into the depths of the ocean. Deep sea bacteria which reside near  Hydrothermal Vents have to deal with viruses on a daily basis. Viruses often infect Bacterial cells and hijack a particular ingredient which is vital for the rapid reproduction of viruses. Researchers from the University of Michigan have unearthed this occurrence.

The Bacteria which reside in the depths of the ocean near hydrothermal springs store sulfur which is obtained from the gases coming out of the hydrothermal vents. The researchers found that the viruses forced the bacteria cells to burn the sulfur reserves and use it for their own propagation. The uncontrolled replication of the viruses leads to the lysis or bursting of the bacterial cell wall.

Gregory J. Dick, a marine microbiologist and oceanographer at the University of Michigan, said Thursday in a statement, “Our findings suggest that viruses in the dark oceans indirectly access vast energy sources in the form of elemental sulfur,”

Viruses play a very important role in the ecosystem around the hydrothermal vents. Viruses are a key element in the evolutionary process of the Bacteria and serve as a reservoir of genetic diversity. This is not for the first time this phenomenon has been observed. Microbial interaction is common between photosynthetic bacteria and viruses in shallow ocean waters. This is the first time interaction has been seen between a chemosynthetic bacteria and a virus. Chemosynthetic bacteria reside deep in the ocean floor near geothermal vents where sunlight cannot penetrate and they rely on inorganic substances like sulfur for their energy needs instead of sunshine.

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