All regions of Earth’s biosphere that we have studied—the waters of Earth’s oceans, the soil beneath our feet, and even the air we breathe—teem with viruses. Viral particles are among the smallest biological entities on the planet, with the average viral particle measuring about 100 nm in length: a size so small that five thousand viruses, lined end to end, would fit across the thickness of a human fingernail. What they lack in size, though, they compensate with sheer abundance. If we were to line up all the viruses in the ocean, they would stretch across the diameter of the...

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