Congress may have had a recent hearing about UFOs, but there are plenty of alien-like creatures on Earth to talk about too. Science Alert recently reported that scientists have found some huge viruses in the soil of Harvard Forest near Boston, Massachusetts. Along with being unusually massive, these viruses also have appendages and internal structures that haven’t been observed in viruses before now.
After discovering these alien-like viruses, the samples were sent to the Max Planck Institute in Germany. There, scientists studied the samples with transmission electron microscopy, which uses a beam of electrons to magnify objects. These observations found that the viruses were an impressive 635 nanometers in width.
One virus had appendages emerging symmetrically from each side, which called to mind the structure of a sea turtle.
For reference, the record for the largest virus found to date is the Pithovirus sibericum, which was 1,500 nanometers and was uncovered from Siberian permafrost, where it was located for 30,000 years before it thawed out. The alien-like viruses found in the Harvard Forest aren’t quite that massive, but it is quite a bit larger than the average virus.
The COVID-19 virus, for instance, is around 50-140 nanometers in width.
Still another alien-like virus observed in the soil had numerous fibers sticking out the top that looked like hair, earning it the ‘haircut’ classification.
The size of these alien-like viruses wasn’t the only unique aspect of them, as the scientists noticed a diverse array of limbs and structures on the viruses. One virus had appendages emerging symmetrically from each side, which called to mind the structure of a sea turtle.
Another virus earned the moniker “Gorgon” due to the long tubes emerging from each side that resembled the snake-headed sisters from Greek mythology.
Still another alien-like virus observed in the soil had numerous fibers sticking out the top that looked like hair, earning it the ‘haircut’ classification. Other interesting shapes included a supernova-like virus that had a thick shell of short inner tendrils and long tendrils further out, a ‘Christmas star’ shape that had interlocking triangles, and ‘falcon’ shapes that had beak-like structures.
The diverse array of structures is certainly interesting, and it will be intriguing to find out more about these viruses and the functions of these appendages.
With eons-old permafrost gradually melting in Siberia as the world continues to warm, more of these previously frozen viruses are being discovered.
Alien-like viruses aren’t the only fascinating viruses that scientists have been uncovering in recent years, as there are also teams of scientists dedicated to uncovering and studying ‘zombie viruses’ as well. The aforementioned Pithovirus sibericum is one of these so-called zombie viruses. With eons-old permafrost gradually melting in Siberia as the world continues to warm, more of these previously frozen viruses are being discovered.
While alien-like viruses are unique because of their structure and size, these zombie viruses have been trapped in ice for tens of thousands of years or longer. One of the uncovered viruses was almost 50,000 years old and is capable of returning to a state of infection organisms after being frozen for years. These incredible ‘zombie viruses’ have been found in locations like thawed lakes, mammoth wool, and even the intestines of Siberian wolves.
The world of microbiology is vast, and we learn more about it all the time. Whether you’re talking about alien or zombie viruses, there is undoubtedly a lot more to discover out there.