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Green algae, in surface layers of almost every lake or stream, are some of the most common aquatic creatures. However, unbeknownst to researchers until recently, viruses that infect algae are almost as widespread. Entire ecosystems of algal hosts and their corresponding viruses lay hidden until the 1980s, when James L. Van Etten, a professor of plant pathology at the University of Nebraska (Lincoln), and his colleague Russ Meints discovered and began to characterize the first member of what is now a rapidly expanding family of algal viruses. Van Etten and his colleagues have continued to study these intriguing viruses, focusing on those that infect Chlorella and other similar green algae. The chlorella viruses have many unusual properties, ranging from their large genome sizes to unique modifications in their DNA.