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Aquatic Microbial Ecology

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AME - Vol. 63, No. 1 - Feature article
Advanced drilling technology allows sediment sampling several hundred meters into the deep subsurface biosphere. Inset: transmission electron micrograph of a benthic virus (scale bar: 50 nm). Graphic: Redrawn from an illustration by Greg Myers; photo: Mathias Middelboe.

Middelboe M, Glud RN, Filippini M


Viral abundance and activity in the deep sub-seafloor biosphere

The deep sub-seafloor sediments extend several hundred meters into the seafloor and constitute a giant sub-surface biosphere. Middelboe and co-workers found that viruses are present in high abundances in this environment. Samples collected ~100 m below the sediment surface, corresponding to a sediment age of ~2 million yr, contained 4.9 x 106 viruses cm-3. The authors suggest that the majority of these were produced several hundred thousand years ago in the upper 30 m of the sediment layer, and subsequently became protected from decay and essentially permanently buried in the deep biosphere. However, at the same time, a small production of viruses may occur even in these very deep sediments, sustained by a small prokaryote metabolism in the sub-surface biosphere.


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