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Summary

Cyanophages are abundant in the oceanic environment and directly impact cyanobacterial distributions, physiological processes and evolution. Two samples collected from coastal Maine in July and September 2009 were enriched for Synechococcus cells using flow cytometry and examined through metagenomic sequencing. Homology-based sequence prediction indicated cyanophages, largely myoviruses, accounted for almost half the reads and provided insights into environmental infection events. T4-phage core-gene phylogenetic reconstruction revealed unique diversity among uncultured cyanophages and reference isolates resulting in identification of a new phylogenetic cluster. Genomic comparison of reference cyanophage strains S-SM2 and Syn1 with putative homologous contigs recovered from metagenomes provided evidence that gene insertion, deletion and recombination have occurred among, and are likely important for diversification of, natural populations. Identification of putative genetic exchange between cyanophage and non-cyanophage viruses, i.e. Micromonas virus and Pelagibacter phage, supports hypotheses related to a significant role for viruses in mediating transfer of genetic material between taxonomically diverse organisms with overlapping ecological niches.