Reclassifying Viruses as Living?

buchen cb2009 at COLUMBIA.EDU
Tue Mar 14 19:04:44 CST 2006

"I think a key criterion of life is metabolism and the ability to use
energy.  Viruses can't do that."

I think that is a too simple way of looking at life and viruses.  Seed or
spores can't use energy or reproduce themselves; they need to be in the
appropriate environment before they can grow and metabolize.  Viruses need
to do the same.  The virus particle is only the extracellular stage of a
viral life cycle, like the seeds or spores.  Agreed viruses do need to
hijack the cell metabolism for their replication, but so do other symbionts
and parasites.  Viruses are in my mind the root of the tree of life.  

Cornelia B├╝chen-Osmond
ICTVdB Management
Columbia University

47 Glenmore Drive
Durham, NC 27707, USA
Phone: 1 (919) 493 0547
Email: cb2009 at
ICTVdB web sites

-----Original Message-----
From: Taxacom Discussion List [mailto:TAXACOM at LISTSERV.NHM.KU.EDU] On Behalf
Of Thomas Lammers
Sent: Tuesday, 14 March 2006 5:36 PM
Subject: Re: [TAXACOM] Reclassifying Viruses as Living?

----- Original Message -----From: Robin Leech Date: Tuesday, March 14, 2006
3:15 pm
Subject: Reclassifying Viruses as Living?

>Hi Taxacomers, If an "thing" can replicate itself by some means, or if we
can kill that "thing" by heat, pressure, chemical or oher means, then surely
we have to classify that "thing" as a form of life?<

The later is only "killing" if we judge the thing to be "living."  Many
things can be *destroyed* -- doesn't mean they are alive.  Don't get caught
in semantic circularity.

I think a key criterion of life is metabolism and the ability to use energy.
Viruses can't do that.

Besides, they make problems for Cell Theory.

Nope.  To me, they'll always just be runamuck nucleic acids ...

Tom Lammers

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