phage, microbiology, diversity, virioplankton, bacteria
Over the past two decades, marine virology has progressed from a curiosity to an intensely studied topic of critical importance to oceanography. At concentrations of approximately 10 million viruses per milliliter of surface seawater, viruses are the most abundant biological entities in the oceans. The majority of these viruses are phages (viruses that infect bacteria). Through lysing their bacterial hosts, marine phages control bacterial abundance, affect community composition, and impact global biogeochemical cycles. In addition, phages influence their hosts through selection for resistance, horizontal gene transfer, and manipulation of bacterial metabolism. Recent work has also demonstrated that marine phages are extremely diverse and can carry a variety of auxiliary metabolic genes encoding critical ecological functions. This review is structured as a scientific “truth or dare,” revealing several well-established “truths” about marine viruses and presenting a few “dares” for the research community to undertake in future studies.