When it comes to big things, Australia usually rests its hat on the likes of the Big Banana, Big Pineapple and similarly oversized monuments. Now, thanks to science, Melbourne can start informing tourists of its own giant contribution — Pandoravirus dulcis, a virus that's 150 times larger than the ones we're familiar with.
As The Age's Bridie Smith writes, Pandoravirus dulcis was discovered in sediment from a pond located on La Trobe University's Bundoora campus, 20km north-east of Melbourne. It was picked out in 2011 by French scientist Jean-Michel Claverie, but the paper describing the virus — and its bigger Chilean counterpart Pandoravirus salinus — was only published in the journal Science last month.
The Pandoraviruses are still tiny by most measurements — a micrometre — but compared to common bugs such as influenza, it's stupidly massive. For the purposes of comparison, Pandoravirus dulcis contains 1500 genes, while little old influenza weighs in at just 10. Salinus is bigger again, at over 2500 genes.
While these viruses sound formidable, apparently they pose no danger to humans. Still, looking at magnified images of these bad boys, I'm not sure I'll be taking a dip in any ponds Bundoora-way in the near future.