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Fossil viruses preserved in hot spring bacteria

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Fossilized microbes have provided scientists many clues about origins of life. By comparison, little attention is given to viruses in the fossil record. Although technically non-living, there is no question these tiny packets of protein-sheathed DNA have shaped the evolution of most life on earth, including humans. But can viral particles, a fractional size of even the smallest bacteria, actually become fossils? A study recently published in the journal Geobiology argues they can. Here, scientists present the first experimental evidence of silicification- the encasement in silicate minerals- of viruses living in hot spring biofilms. Moreover, these viruses can become fossils while still inside their host cells.
 
 

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