, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 145-148
Date: 11 Nov 2004

An enemy within? Observations of virus-like particles in reef corals.

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Marine virology has been transformed in recent years following the discovery that viruses are typically present in concentrations of between 106–108  ml−1 in seawater (Bergh et al. 1989). In essence viruses are simple; they contain a length of nucleic acid (either DNA or RNA) encapsulated by a protein coat and have no inherent metabolism. In practice, viruses are the most morphologically and genetically diverse biological particles in the ocean and it is likely that all microbial and multicellular organisms have viruses that infect them. The role of viruses in marine ecosystems is thought to be just as diverse (Wommack and Colwell 2000) and goes beyond the simple infect-replicate-kill cycle with far reaching implications for biogeochemical cycling (Fuhrman 1999), biogas production (Malin et al. 1998), structuring planktonic communities (Jacquet et al. 2002; Wilson et al. 2002) and mediating horizontal gene transfer (Jiang and Paul 1998).

It is surprising therefore, that viru ...