One origin?

Thomas Lammers lammers at VAXA.CIS.UWOSH.EDU
Thu Jul 19 14:41:32 CDT 2001

At 09:28 AM 7/19/01 -1000, you wrote:

>Are Viruses considered to be "life"?
>Is "Vira" considered as a legitimate Kingdom, alongside the other
>recognized Kingdoms?
>...and most directly to my query:
>Is there a general feeling that Viruses share a common origin with other
>forms of life, or might their origin be independent?

A virologist could give better answers, but it is my impression that, at
the very least, whether you consider viruses alive or not, they probably
are not a step in the evolution of the cell.  I don't think anyone
hypothesizes that the first life on earth was a virus rather than a prokaryote.

I think some have hypothesized that viruses are bits of DNA from
prokaryotes and eukaryotes that have "run away," gotten a life of their
own, so to speak.  In fact, if I'm not mistaken, it is hypothesized that
the viruses that plague a given organism are actually more closely
"related" to this host than to other viruses (e.g., tobacco mosaic virus is
more closely "related" to tobacco than to HIV or influenza, which are
runaway bits of hominid nucleic acid).  I do not know how much credence
virologists give this hypothesis.  If true, it would make any "Kingdom
Virus" hellaciously polyphyletic.

Tom Lammers

Thomas G. Lammers, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor and Curator of the Herbarium (OSH)
Department of Biology and Microbiology
University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
Oshkosh, Wisconsin 54901-8640 USA

e-mail:       lammers at
phone:      920-424-1002
fax:           920-424-1101

Plant systematics; classification, nomenclature, evolution, and
biogeography of the Campanulaceae s. lat.

"Today's mighty oak is yesterday's nut that stood his ground."
                                                 -- Anonymous

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