April 2020
Vol 6, Issue 14

About The Cover

Cover image expansion

ONLINE COVER Despite the essential role that phytoplankton play as the foundation of ocean ecosystems, little is known about the many viruses that infect them or how their populations shift over time. Viruses and their microalgae hosts typically follow 'boom and bust' dynamics, in which the most common varieties are periodically replaced with virus-resistant strains. However, it appears this isn't always the case—Yau et al. observed a phytoplanktonic microalgae and a large double-stranded DNA virus system both continuously grow in their lab for over a decade. To understand this anomaly, the researchers used single cell isolation, high quality long read genomic sequencing of both the microalgae and the virus, and mathematical modeling to identify the mechanisms that allowed the pair to peacefully coexist for such an unexpectedly long time. Their findings suggest that the microalgae's virus-resistant cells continuously produce a small number of cells that are susceptible to the virus, allowing the virus to continue to thrive. This mechanism essentially allows populations to hedge their bets, producing cells that may be a better fit for future environments. [CREDIT: D.P. WILSON/SCIENCE SOURCE]