Giant Virus Discovery Sparks Debate Over Tree Of Life

What's the big deal about Klosneuviruses?

Science first became aware of giant viruses in 2003, and they really live up to their name. Compared to a typical virus measuring a couple of dozen nanometers in size, giant viruses can reach up to 500 nanometers in size, and maybe more. They can also carry more than 2,500 genes. Because the genome of giant viruses is so much larger than anything previously seen, some scientists thought they had descended from the fourth domain of life, referencing a view supported by researchers in 2012. There are currently three accepted domains of life, bacteria, archaea, and eukaryotes.
Cells of the Mollivirus sibericum  a virus that was buried deep in the Siberian permafrost for over ...> Cells of the Mollivirus sibericum, a virus that was buried deep in the Siberian permafrost for over 30,000 years, is thought to be the newest representative of what are loosely known as "giant viruses" Igs/Cnrs/Amu, IGS/CNRS/AFP/File

FURTHER READING: Giant 30,000-year old virus resurrected from permafrost

But size doesn't necessarily mean the Klosneuviruses should have their own domain, according to some scientists. Evolutionary biologist Eugene Koonin of the National Center for Biotechnology Information in Bethesda, Maryland, is not convinced. "It's crystal clear that these giant viruses belong to a group of viruses that includes much smaller ones," he says. It has been suggested the giant viruses probably evolved from much smaller viruses that picked up bits of a genome from their hosts and like Frankenstein monsters, incorporated the genomes into their own genetic code.

The novel discovery in a sewage treatment plant

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