Stories like this raise that question:
Viruses are justly feared as ingenious pathogens, causing diseases in everything they invade, including virtually all bacteria, fungi, plants and animals. Recent advances in the field of virology, however, suggest that viruses play a more significant and complex role than previously appreciated, and may be essential to the functioning of diverse ecosystems…
Intriguingly, a number of insect-transmitted plant viruses may have evolved mechanisms to influence vector behavior, making infected plants more attractive to sap-feeding insects or ensuring that infected plants produce chemicals that promote insect behaviors that help facilitate transmission.
In addition to their complex and varied chains of infection, some plant viruses have another unique property. Such viruses transmit their genomes in multiple packets, each containing only part of the virus’ complete genetic code, encapsulated in a separate virus particle. This peculiar strategy, which requires the co-transmission of several viral particles to a new host in order to ensure the integrity of the viral genome, is a feature believed to be unique to plant viruses. The nature and evolution of these so-called multipartite viruses remains a biological puzzle.
Plant viruses display considerable ingenuity in their strategies, which are highly dependent on their given environment. Some are generalists, invading multiple species, while other viruses are specialists that favour a narrow range of plant hosts. This selectivity may develop with time, through a process known as adaptive radiation. This typically occurs when a virus faces a heterogeneous habitat and becomes adaptively specialized to exploit particular ecological resources while becoming maladapted to exploit others. Such specialization acts to limit competition between different viral lineages or species. Alternatively, generalist viruses infect multiple plant hosts but must compete for these resources with other viruses. This situation tends to result in a viral population of low diversity dominated by the most acutely adapted viral genotypes.Biodesign Institute, “Plant viruses may be reshaping our world” at Arizona State University
Viruses seem to be everywhere, doing a lot of things, with apparent “ingenuity.” Maybe a discovery down the road will be that they cause many changes currently interpreted according to some Darwinian theory (kin selection, costly fitness, what have you … )
Here’s the article (paywall). \
See also: Virus expert highlights the conflict over whether viruses are alive In short, it is an open question. The question relates to the role viruses can play in evolution, among other things. Are they precursors of life, detritus of life, or something in between? Or all three? Keep the file open.
Viruses invent their own genes? Then what is left of Darwinism?
Why viruses are not considered to be alive
Another stab at whether viruses are alive
Phil Sci journal: Special section on understanding viruses
Should NASA look for viruses in space? Actually, it’s not clear that RNA came first. Nor is it clear that viruses precede life. A good case can doubtless be made for viruses being part of the scrap heap of existing life. But no matter. If you think you can find viruses in space, boldly go.
Why “evolution” is changing? Consider viruses
The Scientist asks, Should giant viruses be the fourth domain of life? Eukaryotes, prokaryotes, archaea… and viruses?
Are viruses nature’s perfect machine? Or alive?
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