Scientists studying glacier ice on China’s Tibetan Plateau have found nearly 15,000-year-old viruses in two samples of that ice. Many of these viruses, which have survived all this time because they have been frozen, do not resemble any other virus cataloged to date.
The team of Zhi-Ping Zhong and Matthew Sullivan, both from Ohio State University in the United States, analyzed ice cores extracted in 2015 from the Guliya Glacier in western China. The cores were collected high up: the top of Guliya, where this ice originated, is 6,000 meters above sea level. Ice cores contain layers of ice that have accumulated year after year, trapping what was in the atmosphere around them by the time each layer froze.
When the researchers analyzed the ice, they found the genetic codes of 33 viruses. Four of these viruses were already known to science; They are from families of viruses that usually infect bacteria. But at least 28 of those 33 viruses were previously unknown.
About half of the viruses appear to remain revivable, thanks in large part to freezing.
For this study, the scientists also created a new ultra-clean method to analyze microorganisms in ice without contaminating it.
Yao Tandong, left, and Lonnie Thompson, right, process an ice core drilled in 2015 on the Guliya Glacier on the Tibetan Plateau. (Photo: Lonnie Thompson, The Ohio State University)
The findings in this research could provide new insights into how viruses have evolved over the millennia.
The study is titled “Glacier ice archives nearly 15,000-year-old microbes and phages.” And it has been published in the academic journal Microbiome. (Source: NCYT from Amazings)