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What is astrovirusologiya?
Of course, all a matter of word formation. All we sometimes admire (in part due to misunderstanding) long terms, overgrown with prefixes like a gnome – a beard. “Do not worry about the fact, would not understand” – important hints long word. But Dale Warren Griffin, geologist, of St. Petersburg, Florida, perhaps this exercise in word creation has created one of the hottest research areas: astrovirusologiyu.
In a recent article published in the journal Astrobiology, Griffin says about viruses as an important target for the search for life beyond Earth. In the end, ” viruses are the most numerous in the world, “says the scientist, and as long as there is no consensus about whether it is possible to consider viruses lives, they are indirectly related to biology. Every millimeter of sea water contains millions of viruses, and according to various estimates, billions of viruses inhabit our planet, wreaking havoc in the biological, thermal springs and the depths of the ocean, even in glaciers. Griffin notes that if up with a chain of all the viruses on Earth, it will be stretched to 10 million light years away.
As already mentioned, viruses are the most common and indirectly related to the biology of the “face” in the world, in addition, modern biological environment is almost impossible to imagine without the virus, as they mixed genes between cells over billions of years, dramatically affecting the evolution. By the way, not so long ago were found giant viruses – pandoravirusy, and they can become a separate branch of biological life.
How could look like alien virus? By tradition, astrobiologists, we’ll probably have to try to find analogues of the Earth’s environment, to detect viruses that survive on other planets. Griffin noted that viable viruses were detected in Yellowstone and Italian hot acidic sources (93 C, pH 1,5), as well as sea ice (-12 C). Viruses can survive after a long time, with nearly 100% of the activity is restored after 40 years spent at -70 C, and nearly a third of the studied species remain viable, having spent ten years at room temperature. With the ability to wait out the bad times, viruses are well prepared for travel on meteorites or biological symbiosis with some algae.
The prospect of detecting viruses on other planets gives rise to two interesting consequences: 1) Do we have to look for them, like a lighthouse, speaking on astrobiological activity? 2) if they can pose a real threat to life on Earth?
Viruses can be a lot more common than the cells in the astrobiological context, but almost certainly represent a small proportion of the total biomass. A typical virus is about one thousandth of a small bacterial cell, in terms of survival strategies, the wily virus is more likely to seek a haystack, not the needle. And since they need for the existence of high-grade cells, it is difficult to imagine a scenario in which the virus is the only sign of biological activity.
Griffin relatively optimistic about the risks associated with the possible penetration of extraterrestrial viruses on Earth. On the one hand, the viruses on our planet are well known to us, in a world where there is a struggle for power, the virus adapts and takes into account the specifics of the owner. Life on earth has evolved over billions of years, from which it can be concluded that the supernova virus that developed outside of our biosphere, most likely will not understand what to do with the man.
However, Griffin did not exclude the possibility that extraterrestrial viruses have found a specific host at an early stage of evolution, so it may be able to infect the life of terrestrial origin. No need to stock up on canned food and retreat to the bunkers. Not yet, but Griffin’m one hundred percent: Where there is life there and viruses.
Well, then, first we need to find extraterrestrial life .
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Tags: Viruses , Extraterrestrial Life , Life .
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