A pandora's box of 28 ancient viruses are trapped in glaciers — and climate change could set them free
Byrd Center/Ohio State University
- A team of scientists from the US and China have discovered 28 previously unknown virus groups in samples from the oldest glacial ice on Earth.
- As climate change melts the glacier, it's possible that these pathogens could get released into the atmosphere.
- Even in the best-case scenario, the melting ice would still result in the loss of archives that could hold clues of Earth's climate in the past.
As climate change takes over Earth — melting ice could let those viruses out into the world.
AdvertisementThe best-case scenario is despite the melting ice, the viruses won't activate. Even so, it would be a grave loss of information.
"At a minimum, [ice melt] could lead to the loss of microbial and viral archives that could be diagnostic and informative of past Earth climate regimes," said the study published in the pre-print server bioRxiv.
In the worst-case scenario, the melting ice would release the pathogens — good and bad — into the environment.
Ice from 15,000 years ago
The scientists took samples from two ice cores from the
In comparing the two ice-cores, scientists found that the microbes found within them varied drastically. This suggests that the two cores represent two very different climate conditions, according to the study.
Only 28 of the viruses that the scientists found have never been seen before, however, overall they were able to detect 33 different virus groups.
"Glaciers around the world are rapidly shrinking, primarily due to the anthropogenic-enhanced warming of Earth's ocean-atmosphere system, and this will release glacial microbes and viruses that have been trapped and preserved for tens to hundreds of thousands of years," said the study.
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