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Major viral impact on the functioning of benthic deep-sea ecosystems
Danovaro, R.; Dell'Anno, A.; Corinaldesi, C.; Magagnini, M.; Noble, R.T.; Tamburini, C.; Weinbauer, M.G. (2008). Major viral impact on the functioning of benthic deep-sea ecosystems. Nature (Lond.) 454(7208): 1084-1087
In: Nature: International Weekly Journal of Science. Nature Publishing Group: London. ISSN 0028-0836; e-ISSN 1476-4687, more
Peer reviewed article  

Available in  Authors 

    Aquatic communities > Benthos
    Deep sea

Authors  Top 
  • Danovaro, R., more
  • Dell'Anno, A.
  • Corinaldesi, C.
  • Magagnini, M.
  • Noble, R.T.
  • Tamburini, C.
  • Weinbauer, M.G., more

    Viruses are the most abundant biological organisms of the world's oceans. Viral infections are a substantial source of mortality in a range of organisms - including autotrophic and heterotrophic plankton - but their impact on the deep ocean and benthic biosphere is completely unknown. Here we report that viral production in deep-sea benthic ecosystems worldwide is extremely high, and that viral infections are responsible for the abatement of 80% of prokaryotic heterotrophic production. Virus-induced prokaryotic mortality increases with increasing water depth, and beneath a depth of 1,000 m nearly all of the prokaryotic heterotrophic production is transformed into organic detritus. The viral shunt, releasing on a global scale ~0.37-0.63 gigatonnes of carbon per year, is an essential source of labile organic detritus in the deep-sea ecosystems. This process sustains a high prokaryotic biomass and provides an important contribution to prokaryotic metabolism, allowing the system to cope with the severe organic resource limitation of deep-sea ecosystems. Our results indicate that viruses have an important role in global biogeochemical cycles, in deep-sea metabolism and the overall functioning of the largest ecosystem of our biosphere.

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