9.13.2022 - Elaine Luo

contact information: elaine.luo@uncc.edu, and @oceanmicrobes on Twitter.

Viral diversity in the ocean

In the ocean, viruses are on average an order of magnitude more abundant than other microbes and represent a large reservoir of genetic diversity. Viruses influence microbial diversity and biogeochemical cycling by decimating cellular hosts and transforming organic matter. Despite their abundance and importance to marine ecosystems, viral diversity remains unexplored relative to other microbes, particularly in the under-sampled open and deep oceans. In this talk, I show how viral diversity varies from different ocean habitats, from planktonic communities in the surface to mesopelagic ocean (5 - 1000 m) to sinking particles reaching the abyss (4000 m). I link novel metagenomic diversity to ecological function by revealing patterns in viral community structure, gene content, reproductive strategies, and relationship with carbon export. Hybrid short- and long-read metagenomics revealed novel mobile genetic elements that parasitize virus-sized particles and their potential impacts on marine microbial ecology. In my most current work, I combine metagenomics with stable isotope probing to link novel genomic diversity to ecosystem function. My talk explores previous and ongoing research on the diversity, ecological, and biogeochemical impacts of some of the most abundant yet understudied life-forms in the ocean.