OREANDA-NEWS. Scientists have discovered dozens of species of ancient viruses in two 15,000-year-old ice samples which were taken from the Tibetan plateau in China. It is noted that most of the found viruses have not yet been known to scientists. The research results are published in the journal Microbiome.

American biologists from Ohio State University made analyse of the ice cores taken in 2015 from the Gulia ice cap in western China and found the genetic codes of 33 viruses, four of which have already been identified earlier, and 28 are absolutely new ones, unlike any modern viruses.

Glaciers have a wealth of information about the history of the Earth inside them, as they capture everything round them: dust particles, traces of gas, microbes and plant matter from the environment. By studying ice cores obtained by drilling glaciers, scientists get precious data on the ancient climate, the composition of the atmosphere and what biological species existed at different points in history.

"These glaciers formed gradually, and many viruses were deposited with dust and gases in the ice," lead author Zhi-Ping Zhong, a microbiologist at the Center for Polar and Climate Research and the Center for Microbiome Research, said in a press release. Ohio State University - Glaciers in western China are poorly understood, and our goal is to use this information to reflect the environment of the past. And viruses are part of that environment. "

According to scientists, at least half of the detected viruses came back to life after the ice melted. This is very important information, since every year the glaciers of Tibet shrink in size, and as they melt, ancient viruses come to the surface.

“These are viruses that can thrive in extreme conditions,” explains another study participant, Dr. Matthew Sullivan, professor of microbiology at Ohio State University. “Perhaps this method will help us find genetic sequences in other extreme ice conditions, for example, on Mars, on the Moon, or closer to us in the Atacama Desert," says Sullivan.