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New viruses are providing some clues to how viruses evolved

The science of metagenomics has uncovered that viruses are the most abundant and genetically diverse organisms on earth. In an article published in Microbiology Today, Peter Simmons from the Centre for Infectious Diseases, University of Edinburgh, discusses how discoveries of new viruses are providing clues to how viruses evolve -

"In the spirit of Darwin 200, which marks the bicentenary of Charles Darwin’s birth, I will describe a little of what we know about the evolution of viruses and their ultimate origins. One of the immediate problems facing such studies is the evident fact that viruses are hugely diverse in size, appearance, even the nature of their genetic material (DNA or RNA). From this, it is reasonably clear that they are a not a single evolutionary group, and cannot be easily added as a single unit to the tree of life with its three main divisions (Bacteria, Archaea and Eukarya). By the same token, it seems likely that different virus groups (e.g. animal RNA viruses, retroviruses, large DNA viruses, bacteriophages) may indeed have entirely separate evolutionary origins."

Found via MicrobiologyBytes.com
 
 

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