Giant viruses blur clear line between life-forms

Vaniceseasonal's Blog

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Thanks:SHOJI KODAMA, Nikkei senior staff writer

April 17, 2014 12:00 am JST

Pithovirus is over 10 times larger than the influenza virus and rivals the size of some bacteria. (Courtesy of Chantal Abergel, IGS, CNRS-AMU)

TOKYO — Giant viruses discovered over the past decade are redefining the notion of life.

     The latest giant virus, which had been trapped in the Siberian permafrost for 30,000 years, is so big that it can be seen with a regular light microscope and is larger than many types of bacteria.

     Scientists may need to rethink evolution and life-form classification because of the giants. They differ from common viruses in numerous ways.

Frozen surprise

In 2003, scientists identified the Mimivirus, which is 0.75 micron in size, three times bigger than the largest viruses known at the time. It was so large that it was first mistaken for a bacterium. Investigation…

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