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Summary

Spindle-shaped virus-like particles are abundant in extreme geothermal environments, from which five spindle-shaped viral species have been isolated to date. They infect members of the hyperthermophilic archaeal genus Sulfolobus, and constitute the Fuselloviridae, a family of double-stranded DNA viruses. Here we present four new members of this family, all from terrestrial acidic hot springs. Two of the new viruses exhibit a novel morphotype for their proposed attachment structures, and specific features of their genome sequences strongly suggest the identity of the host-attachment protein. All fuselloviral genomes are highly conserved at the nucleotide level, although the regions of conservation differ between virus-pairs, consistent with a high frequency of homologous recombination having occurred between them. We propose a fuselloviral specific mechanism for interviral recombination, and show that the spacers of the Sulfolobus CRISPR antiviral system are not biased to the highly similar regions of the fusellovirus genomes.