The constant battle between pathogens and their hosts has long been recognized as a key driver of evolution, but until now scientists have not had the tools to look at these patterns globally across species and genomes. In a new study, researchers apply big-data analysis to reveal the full extent of viruses’ impact on the evolution of humans and other mammals.
Their findings suggest an astonishing 30 percent of all protein adaptations since humans’ divergence with chimpanzees have been driven by viruses.
“We’re all interested in how it is that we and other organisms have evolved, and in the pressures that made us what we are,” said Petrov. “The discovery that this constant battle with viruses has shaped us in every aspect — not just the few proteins that fight infections, but everything — is profound. All organisms have been living with viruses for billions of years; this work shows that those interactions have affected every part of the cell.” More. Paper. (public access) – David Enard, Le Cai, Carina Gwennap, Dmitri A Petrov. Viruses are a dominant driver of protein adaptation in mammals. eLife, 2016; 5 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.12469
Good find but the main conclusion drawn is fever swamp territory. Viruses did not, on their own, evolve the human mind and that is the main thing we wonder about.
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