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Summary

Hypersaline environments harbour the highest number of virus-like particles reported for planktonic systems. However, very little is known about the genomic diversity of these virus assemblages since most of the knowledge on halophages is based on the analysis of a few isolates infecting strains of hyperhalophilic Archaea that may not be representatives of the natural microbiota. Here, we report the characterization, through a metagenomic approach, of the viral assemblage inhabiting a crystallizer pond (CR30) from a multi-pond solar saltern in Santa Pola (SE Spain). A total of 1.35 Mbp were cloned that yielded a total of 620 kb sequenced viral DNA. The metavirome was highly diverse and different from virus communities of marine and other aquatic environments although it showed some similarities with metaviromes from high-salt ponds in solar salterns in San Diego (SW USA), indicating some common traits between high-salt viromes. A high degree of diversity was found in the halophages as revealed by the presence of 2479 polymorphic nucleotides. Dinucleotide frequency analysis of the CR30 metavirome showed a good correlation with GC content and enabled the establishment of different groups, and even the assignment of their putative hosts: the archaeon Haloquadratum walsbyi and the bacterium Salinibacter ruber.