Archaeal viruses are some of the most enigmatic viruses known, due to the small number that have been characterized to date. The number of known archaeal viruses lags behind known bacteriophages by over an order of magnitude. Despite this, the high levels of genetic and morphological diversity that archaeal viruses display has attracted researchers for over 45 years. Extreme natural environments, such as acidic hot springs, are almost exclusively populated by Archaea and their viruses, making these attractive environments for the discovery and characterization of new viruses. The archaeal viruses from these environments have provided insights into archaeal biology, gene function, and viral evolution. This review focuses on advances from over four decades of archaeal virology, with a particular focus on archaeal viruses from high temperature environments, the existing challenges in understanding archaeal virus gene function, and approaches being taken to overcome these limitations.
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