Tag Archives: hot spring

Newly discovered virus turns amoeba into stone

Scientists have discovered a new virus in the hot springs of northern Japan. It can turn amoebae into stone-like cysts and scientists have named it the Medusavirus.

Researchers led by Masaharu Takemura at Tokyo University of Science, Hiroyuki Ogata at Kyoto University, Japan National Institute for Physiological Sciences, and scientists from Tokyo Institute of Technology isolated the giant virus from a sample of mud and dead leaves collected from a Japanese hot spring. This was reported in the Journal of Virology.

Like the mythical monster from Greek mythology Medusa, this newfound virus can turn its host to “stone.” Thankfully, its hosts are not humans. The virus infects single-celled organisms known as Acanthamoeba castellanii, a type of amoeba. The virus infects amoebae and multiplies inside them, causing some to burst. Post-infection, other amoebae developed a hard outer coating or “shell” and enter a dormant state known as encystment. This prompted the researchers to name the virus after Medusa, the Greek mythological monster who turned onlookers to stone.

While the virus doesn’t have a head full of snakes, like Medusa, researchers found a unique feature on Medusavirus’ outer surface: on closer examination, researchers discovered that the virus’s genetic material is protected by 2,660 spherical-headed spikes. These unusual findings led the scientists to propose that the virus receive its own taxonomic family: Medusaviridae. Genomic and structural features indicate that Medusavirus is distantly related to other giant viruses.

Medusavirus holds many distinguishing features compared with other giant viruses. Its DNA codes for all five types of histones, the key proteins that help compact DNA within the nucleus. In fact, no other known virus has all five types. Further, Medusavirus encoded neither RNA polymerase nor DNA topoimerase II, whereas all other giant viruses encode at least one.

Source: National Institute for Physiological Sciences, Japan

In addition, several genes in Medusavirus were also found in its amoeba hosts suggesting that Medusavirus has infected these amoebas millions of years (or more) ago and the two microorganisms (amoeba and Medusavirus) have exchanged genes over the course of evolution possibly through lateral gene transfer going both directions — host-to-virus and virus-to-host.

“Medusavirus is a unique giant virus that still preserves the ancient footprints of the virus-host evolutionary interactions,” the researchers said in a statement. The team of experts in virus hunting, molecular biology, structural biology, bioinformatics intends to study the infection process of Medusavirus in more detail, including the role of the viral histones and learn more about how the billion years’ co-evolution occurred between giant viruses and eukaryotes.

The ‘hottest’ 7 … hot springs

The idea for this article hit me while I was writing this post about awesome landscapes. I was doing some research, and when I found the amazing things hot water springs can create, it was obvious that this article had to come.

Grand Prismatic Spring

Measuring about 250×380 feet, and being the largest hot water spring outside of New Zealand, the Grand Prismatic Spring is definitely something worth gazing at.

It sits in Yellowstone, high on the top of a mound, and has some small terraces that highlight even better the amazing colours created by the bacteria inside the water.

The vivid colours are the result of pigmented bacteria; the colours range from green to red, depending on the amount of chlorophyll the bacteria has, as well as the temperature of the water.

Mammoth springs

While we’re still in Yellowstone, I just have to mention Mammoth springs.

The amazing springs that showcase terraces was formed due to the occurence of the typical elements: heat, water, limestone, and a fracture system.

Heat and water create the necessary force for the travertine terraces to appear (travertine is a form of limestone deposited by mineral springs and generally associated to hot springs).

Pamukkale springs

In Turkish, Pamukkale means “cotton castle” – and it’s quite easy to understand why.

It was created with pretty much the same elements as Mammoth Spring, but the aspect is not identical, because the deposition of the travertine depends on a number of factors, including weather, temperature, local geochemistry, etc.

Guelma spring

Located in Algeria, this hot water spring draws more and more people, despite the relatively remote area.

Here, you can practically see the travertine formations cascading down like waterfalls.

This happens because of the way it is formed. Initially, the mineral depositions are soft and jelly-ish (so to speak), but as time passes, they harden in whatever position they are left.

Blood Pond

The people who named it sure didn’t have to think a long time when they named it.

There are nine hot water springs in Beppu, and they’ve been nicknamed “hells”, due to the boiling water, and the Blood Pond is the “worst” of them. It’s also the nicest one to look at… at least if you ask me.

The Blue Lagoon

This Icelandic Blue Lagoon has been turned into a geothermal spa, due to the minerals in the water, such as silica and sulphur. These mineral rich waters are reputed to help people suffering from skin diseases.

Jigokudani Monkey Park

The name Jigokudani literally means Hell’s Valley – something with Japanese and hot water springs… can’t find a single one that’s not named hell.

The spring itself isn’t extremely spectacular, but the thing is, it’s famous due to a large population of Japanese Macaques, commonly known as snow monkeys. The smart rascals come down from the cold forests to take a warm bath… and who can blame them ?

Photo sources: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13