The discovery of two new jumbo-sized viruses is blurring the lines between viral and cellular life and could point to the existence of a new type of life, scientists suggest.
The two large viruses, detailed in this week’s issue of the journal Science, have been dubbed “Pandoraviruses” because of the surprises they may hold for biologists, in reference to the mythical Greek figure who opened a box and released evil into the world.
The discovery of Pandoraviruses is an indication that our knowledge of Earth’s microbial biodiversity is still incomplete, explained study coauthor Jean-Michel Claverie, a virologist at the French National Research Agency at Aix-Marseille University.
“Huge discoveries remain to be made at the most fundamental level that may change our present conception about the origin of life and its evolution,” Claverie said.
Eugene Koonin, a computational evolutionary biologist at the National Center for Biotechnology Information in Bethesda, Md., who was not involved in the study, called the Pandoraviruses a “wonderful discovery,” but not a complete surprise.
“In a certain sense, it’s something that we saw coming, and it’s wonderful that it has come,” Koonin said.