The lair of the “beast” in Lassen Volcanic National Park
It’s not often that a scientist will say “mythological beast” with a straight face, but that’s exactly what virologist Ken Stedman told Nature News about a new virus. In a recent paper in Biology Direct, Stedman and his research team describe a genetic sequence that suggests the existence of a DNA-RNA chimera virus.
RNA and DNA viruses, referring to the type of nucleic acid they use to store genetic information, are two very distinct groups—probably more evolutionary distant than a lion and a snake. That’s why researchers were so surprised when they found a DNA virus sequence encoding a protein only ever found in RNA viruses. The sample came from a Lassen Volcanic National Park hotspring, where viruses prey on the bacteria living in the acidic water.