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Ancient never-before-seen viruses discovered locked up in Tibetan glacier

Glacier on the Tibetan Plateau.
(Image: © Shutterstock)

For the past 15,000 years, a glacier on the northwestern Tibetan Plateau of China has hosted a party for some unusual guests: an ensemble of frozen viruses, many of them unknown to modern science.

Scientists recently broke up this party after taking a look at two ice cores from this Tibetan glacier, revealing the existence of 28 never-before-seen virus groups. 

on Jan. 7. 

Related: Photographic Proof of Climate Change: Time-Lapse Images of Retreated Glaciers

乐动体育开户"However, in a worst-case scenario, this ice melt [from climate change] could release pathogens into the environment," the researchers wrote in the study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed. If this happens, it's best to know as much about these viruses as possible, the researchers wrote.

Icy research

Studying ancient glacial microbes can be challenging. That's because it's extremely easy to contaminate ice core samples with modern-day bacteria乐动体育开户. So, the researchers created a new protocol for ultraclean microbial and viral sampling. 

In this case, the two ice core samples from the Guliya ice cap on the Tibetan Plateau乐动体育开户 were collected in 1992 and 2015. However, at those times, there weren't any special measures taken to avoid microbial contamination during the core drilling, handling or transport. 

In other words, the exterior of these ice cores was contaminated. But the insides were still pristine, the researchers wrote in the study. To access the inner part of the cores, the researchers set up shop in a cold room — the thermometer was set at 23 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 5 degrees Celsius) — and used a sterilized band saw to cut away 0.2 inches (0.5 centimeters) of ice from the outer layer. Then, the researchers washed the ice cores with ethanol to melt another 0.2 inches of ice. Finally, they washed the next 0.2 inches away with sterile water. 

After all of this work (shaving off about 0.6 inches, or 1.5 cm of ice), the researchers reached an uncontaminated layer that they could study. This method held up even during tests in which the researchers covered the outer layer of the ice with other bacteria and viruses. 

The experiment revealed 33 groups of virus genuses (also known as genera) in the ice cores. Of these, 28 were previously unknown to science, the researchers said. "The microbes differed significantly across the two ice cores," the researchers wrote in the study, "presumably representing the very different climate conditions at the time of deposition."

It's no surprise that the glacier held these mysterious viruses for so long, researchers said.

"We are very far from sampling the entire diversity of viruses on Earth," Chantal Abergel, a researcher in environmental virology at the French National Centre for Scientific Research, who wasn't involved with the study, . 

As human-made climate change melts glaciers the world over, these viral archives could be lost, the researchers noted. Research into ancient viruses "provides a first window into viral genomes and their ecology from glacier ice," the researchers wrote in the study, "and emphasizes their likely impact on abundant microbial groups [today]."

Originally published on Live Science.

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  • Mstrdiver
    As human-made climate change melts glaciers the world over, these viral archives could be lost, the researchers noted. Research into ancient viruses "provides a first window into viral genomes and their ecology from glacier ice," the researchers wrote in the study, "and emphasizes their likely impact on abundant microbial groups ."
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    I'm somewhat surprised that a science journal made such an assumptive toward the bottom of this article in that they stated the glacier met was due to human activity. I'm not a climate denier but the statement just rang hollow with me as the causal factors for this statement are still under discussion worldwide and you can find a wide variety of experts willing to take sides for and against this assertion. I would suggest a modification to this statement be made.
    Reply
  • KatelynnHolt77
    I do not believe in climate change, the earths temperature naturally fluctuates. This is all just a fabrication of the liberal party; first it was global warming, then the earth started getting colder again, naturally as with the fluctuation of earths temperature, they changed it to climate change. They change it to work for them. Now you could argue there is no evidence or data to support this, few years ago, a volcano erupted in Russia ( I think I do not remember) and the observed carbon dioxide output was more than triple the theoretical carbon dioxide given off by human activities over the course of their existence.
    Reply
  • Parabasis
    Mstrdiver said:
    I'm somewhat surprised that a science journal made such an assumptive toward the bottom of this article in that they stated the glacier met was due to human activity. I'm not a climate denier but the statement just rang hollow with me as the causal factors for this statement are still under discussion worldwide and you can find a wide variety of experts willing to take sides for and against this assertion. I would suggest a modification to this statement be made.

    'Wide variety of experts'? The only type of expert that applies here are those who's fields derive from physics or chemistry, and 97% of those experts say it's due to excess carbon being dumped into the air by human processes. I'm an expert at programming, that doesn't mean my opinion on climate change accounts for jack because my specialty doesn't derive from chemistry and physics, in those areas I'm merely an educated layman. Also, no one is going to edit the article without actual proof, which does not include this mysterious 'wide variety of experts'.
    Reply
  • Parabasis
    KatelynnHolt77 said:
    I do not believe in climate change, the earths temperature naturally fluctuates. This is all just a fabrication of the liberal party; first it was global warming, then the earth started getting colder again, naturally as with the fluctuation of earths temperature, they changed it to climate change. They change it to work for them. Now you could argue there is no evidence or data to support this, few years ago, a volcano erupted in Russia ( I think I do not remember) and the observed carbon dioxide output was more than triple the theoretical carbon dioxide given off by human activities over the course of their existence.

    For every molecule of CO2 that volcanoes emit over the course of a year humans release 60 over a year. There has never been a volcano in recorded human history that has produced more CO2 than modern humans create in month, let alone a year, let alone 'all of human existence'. Of course, you don't remember the name, because it doesn't exist, and figments of imagination are easily forgotten.

    Here's an article to set you straight, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) one the leading government bodies studying global climate change, and employer of some of the world's preeminent climate scientists:

    http://www.climate.gov/news-features/climate-qa/which-emits-more-carbon-dioxide-volcanoes-or-human-activities
    Reply
  • IrritableBadger
    Mstrdiver said:
    As human-made climate change melts glaciers the world over, these viral archives could be lost, the researchers noted. Research into ancient viruses "provides a first window into viral genomes and their ecology from glacier ice," the researchers wrote in the study, "and emphasizes their likely impact on abundant microbial groups ."
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    I'm somewhat surprised that a science journal made such an assumptive toward the bottom of this article in that they stated the glacier met was due to human activity. I'm not a climate denier but the statement just rang hollow with me as the causal factors for this statement are still under discussion worldwide and you can find a wide variety of experts willing to take sides for and against this assertion. I would suggest a modification to this statement be made.

    What the article said is entirely valid. There is an undeniable anthropogenic component to climate change. The extent of that is open to debate, but human activity has a disturbingly large negative impact.
    Reply
  • CodgerDeluxe
    Mstrdiver said:
    I'm somewhat surprised that a science journal made such an assumptive toward the bottom of this article in that they stated the glacier met was due to human activity. I'm not a climate denier but the statement just rang hollow with me as the causal factors for this statement are still under discussion worldwide and you can find a wide variety of experts willing to take sides for and against this assertion. I would suggest a modification to this statement be made.

    Agreed. Not to mention whether it's "human-made" or not doesn't seem relevant in this particular case. I'm not a denier either, but I don't like seeing journalistic bias of any kind, even the lightest and most innocent, especially these days. We all just gotta be a little more careful is all. (Well, ok, that's not "all", but that's for another thread entirely!)
    Reply
  • ImNoRocketSurgeonBut
    To paraphrase Crazy Hair Alien Guy: "I'm not sayin' it's man-made Climate Change, but...Climate Change!" Absurd leaps of induction, and false assumptions leading to Rock Solid confirmation bias. The inclusion of Solar and Galactic forcing mechanisms in the IPCC CMIP6 modelling sets is pulling back the 40 year old veil on Climate Forcing Mechanisms.
    Reply
  • Ratwrangler
    KatelynnHolt77 said:
    I do not believe in climate change, the earths temperature naturally fluctuates. This is all just a fabrication of the liberal party; first it was global warming, then the earth started getting colder again, naturally as with the fluctuation of earths temperature, they changed it to climate change. They change it to work for them. Now you could argue there is no evidence or data to support this, few years ago, a volcano erupted in Russia ( I think I do not remember) and the observed carbon dioxide output was more than triple the theoretical carbon dioxide given off by human activities over the course of their existence.
    I believe in climate change, as I have been watching it change since the cold spell in the 1960s, but I am not certain that man is solely the cause of it, as some seem to believe. When Mt. St. Helens blew up back in 1980, the first thing the scientists said was that it threw out more chlorocarbons into the atmosphere than our industry had in 50 years. We have had plenty of volcanic eruptions before and since 1980, and if a quarter of them threw out as much greenhouse gasses as did St, Helens, then volcanoes are more responsible for climate change than the entire Industrial Age.
    Reply
  • jdtrani
    KatelynnHolt77 said:
    I do not believe in climate change, the earths temperature naturally fluctuates. This is all just a fabrication of the liberal party; first it was global warming, then the earth started getting colder again, naturally as with the fluctuation of earths temperature, they changed it to climate change. They change it to work for them. Now you could argue there is no evidence or data to support this, few years ago, a volcano erupted in Russia ( I think I do not remember) and the observed carbon dioxide output was more than triple the theoretical carbon dioxide given off by human activities over the course of their existence.
    Volcanoes contribute about 0.645 billion tons of carbon dioxide to the Earth's atmosphere per year. Human activity contributes about 29 billion tons per year. Those are facts. Based on facts like those, it would be reasonable to hypothesize that human activity has caused the carbon dioxide increase in Earth's atmosphere since 1750. In science, theories are derived from empirical evidence and hypotheses that can be tested. It is okay to believe that climate change is not due to human activity, but that belief runs counter to the facts, hypotheses, and theories upon which climate science is built. It sounds like your belief that climate change is not due human activity is based solely on opinions. For example, you talk about some fictitious "liberal party" and their beliefs. Climate change has to do with science, not politics. Regardless of any political opinions people may hold, climate change will continue to occur if we don't find more effective ways to reverse the amount of carbon being released into the atmosphere. Also, there is no evidence to support the idea that anyone started to refer to the phenomenon as "climate change" instead of "global warming" because the earth started getting colder again. The Earth is steadily warming and has not started getting colder again. So there is no logic to that argument at all. Both terms have been used for decades and refer to different physical phenomena. There simply is no "they" (liberal party or otherwise) who changed the terms for political purposes. Again, believe whatever you want, but just be aware that your beliefs are based on opinions (probably someone else's and not your own) rather than on scientific data.
    Reply
  • California Yankee
    KatelynnHolt77 said:
    I do not believe in climate change, the earths temperature naturally fluctuates. This is all just a fabrication of the liberal party; first it was global warming, then the earth started getting colder again, naturally as with the fluctuation of earths temperature, they changed it to climate change. They change it to work for them. Now you could argue there is no evidence or data to support this, few years ago, a volcano erupted in Russia ( I think I do not remember) and the observed carbon dioxide output was more than triple the theoretical carbon dioxide given off by human activities over the course of their existence.
    I recommend re-calibrating your journalistic GPS, the Fox News website is somewhere over to the right of here. But seriously, as soon as you start talking about "a fabrication of the liberal party" you reveal that you are speaking from the usual US-centric viewpoint of most climate change deniers. Once you get beyond the currently benighted shores of the US, you find that the governments of nearly all the 190+ nations on the planet, regardless of their political tilt, accept the truth of climate change. As do virtually all the governmental and non-governmental agencies, scientific associations and institutes, trade associations and any other organized or random groupings of human beings that are in a position to comment on or be affected by climate change.

    So your supposed liberal conspiracy seems to have jumped the political fence and been taken up by pretty much everyone on the bloody planet regardless of their politics. Under such circumstances, the most reasonable assumption is that they are operating based on facts, not dumping hundreds of billions of dollars of their combined national currencies into fighting off dragons, sea serpents and other imaginary beasties.

    Lastly, the funny thing about facts is that they aren't like quantum particles that are dependent on your observation to exist. They don't require your assent or belief in them to exist or to be facts, i'e., to be the truth, an accurate statement about the world around us. So when you start off announcing, quite proudly it would seem, that you don't believe in climate change, as if the subject at hand was UFOs or Bigfoot, you are calling your credibility into question far more than you are the credibility of the literal mountain of evidence that tells us that, yes, Virginia, there is climate change.
    Reply