Viruses are the most abundant and the most diverse life form. In this meta-analysis we estimate that there are 4.80×1031 phages on Earth. Further, 97% of viruses are in soil and sediment—two underinvestigated biomes that combined account for only ∼2.5% of publicly available viral metagenomes. The majority of the most abundant viral sequences from all biomes are novel. Our analysis drawing on all publicly available viral metagenomes observed a mere 257,698 viral genotypes on Earth—an unrealistically low number—which attests to the current paucity of viral metagenomic data. Further advances in viral ecology and diversity call for a shift of attention to previously ignored major biomes and careful application of verified methods for viral metagenomic analysis.


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