Marine bacteriophages or marine phages are viruses that live as obligate parasitic agents in marine bacteria such as cyanobacteria. Their existence was discovered through electron microscopy and epifluorescence microscopy of ecological water samples, and later through metagenomic sampling of uncultured viral samples. The tailed bacteriophages appear to dominate marine ecosystems in number and diversity of organisms. However, viruses belonging to families Corticoviridae, Inoviridae and Microviridae are also known to infect diverse marine bacteria. Metagenomic evidence suggests that microviruses (icosahedral ssDNA phages) are particularly prevalent in marine habitats.
Bacteriophages, viruses that are parasitic on bacteria, were first discovered in the early twentieth century. Scientists today consider that their importance in ecosystems, particularly marine ecosystems, has been underestimated, leading to these infectious agents being poorly investigated and their numbers and species biodiversity being greatly under reported.
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