The scope for ecological studies of eukaryotic algal viruses has greatly improved with the development of molecular and bioinformatic approaches that do not require algal cultures. Here, we review the history and perceived future opportunities for research on eukaryotic algal viruses. We begin with a summary of the 65 eukaryotic algal viruses that are presently in culture collections, with emphasis on shared evolutionary traits (e.g., conserved core genes) of each known viral type. We then describe how core genes have been used to enable molecular detection of viruses in the environment, ranging from PCR-based amplification to community scale “-omics” approaches. Special attention is given to recent studies that have employed network-analyses of -omics data to predict virus-host relationships, from which a general bioinformatics pipeline is described for this type of approach. Finally, we conclude with acknowledgement of how the field of aquatic virology is adapting to these advances, and highlight the need to properly characterize new virus-host systems that may be isolated using preliminary molecular surveys. Researchers can approach this work using lessons learned from the Chlorella
virus system, which is not only the best characterized algal-virus system, but is also responsible for much of the foundation in the field of aquatic virology.
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