Thursday, December 15, 2022

Giant Viruses

Scientists have discovered and revived a 30,000-year-old virus, not seen since the Upper Paleolithic era, buried under the Siberian permafrost:

Ancient Giant Virus

This organism is "giant" on the virus scale; that is, it's big enough to be seen with an ordinary microscope. Fortunately, it poses no danger to humanity. It survives and reproduces by infecting a species of amoeba. However, the fact that this microbe remains infectious after so many millennia of dormancy implies that "it's possible that dangerous viruses do lurk in suspended animation deep belowground. . . . These viruses are buried deep, so it's likely that only human activities — such as mining and drilling for minerals, oil and natural gas — would disturb them."

Has any SF novelist used this premise in an apocalyptic novel about a pandemic for which no immunity or cure exists? Inevitably, the concept of a dangerous organism frozen in suspended animation for tens of thousands of years brings to mind the alien shapeshifter discovered in Antarctica in John W. Campbell's classic story "Who Goes There?" (adapted to film at least three times, first as THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD). Also lurking at the South Pole, prehistoric shoggoths are awakened in H. P. Lovecraft's AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS.

Or could microscopic life on Mars from thousands or millions of years ago be merely dormant rather than extinct?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

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