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This page is currently being authored by an undergraduate researcher at Penn State Brandywine. The page will be posted before the end of November 2015.

Paleovirology is the study of ancient viruses. Scientists hope that by learning more about ancient viruses, they will be able to better understand modern viruses. By looking at the morphology, as well as their genetic makeup, scientists are able to determine most, if not all, of the life cycle of a given ancient virus. Some of these viruses have been found buried deep within the Siberian permafrost, and these viruses have begun opening up the field of paleovirolgy.


What are these ancient viruses? Pandoraviruses are essentially ancient viruses with more complex genetic makeup. While most common viruses today contain roughly double-digit numbers of genes (for example: HIV has only 12 genes), these ancient viruses can contain upwards of 500 different genes. These ancient viruses are also much larger than modern viruses, measuring approximately 1.5 microns in length[1]. These pandoraviruses are a glimpse into the prehistoric realm of viruses, and can potentially lead to new discoveries in their contemporaries. To see a comparison of the different shapes and sizes of these pandoraviruses, click here.

Pithovirus Sibericum


The most recent, and still infectious, virus found within the Siberian permafrost in 2014. This virus is known to be 30,000 years old, and has been found to be still infectious in a laboratory setting[2]. To see an image of the actual Pithovirus sibericum click here.

Potential dangers and complications

Given that these viruses are still active today, after 30,000 years in permafrost, are there possible ramifications for humans now? While these viruses are still infectious, their morphology will not allow them to be dangerous to humans as they are now [3]. However, if these viruses were to adapt and mutate, there could be potential issues in the future, but not directly towards humans or animals. These issues would be more dangerous on a microscopic level.

avian flu virus as a size comparison

See also

Other closely related articles in this wiki include:


  1. Pappas, S. (n.d.). Frozen Giant Virus Still Infectious After 30,000 Years. Accessed October 29, 2015.
  2. Sirucek, S. (2014, March 3). Ancient “Giant Virus” Revived From Siberian Permafrost. Accessed October 29, 2015.
  3. Emerman, M., & Harmit, M. (2010, February 9). PLOS Biology: Paleovirology—Modern Consequences of Ancient Viruses. Accessed September 24, 2015.

External links

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