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Virolution


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I am currently writing a piece of fiction and when I do this I tend not to read any other in case I pick up someone elses ideas without processing them properly first.

 

As a result I tend to wander into the non fiction world and I usually set up a theme to follow. The current one is Evolution, partly out of the Darwin noises made a few months back and partly out of my own paleo interest.

 

I recently finished this fantastic book, Virolution, which according to the front cover is "The most important evolutionary book since Dawkins' selfish Gene". I don't know whether I would want to go so far having reading the SG and a number of others by Dawkins, a lot by S J Gould (admittedly now sadly deceased so therefore not since...) , Darwin of course but ditto and ostensibly 'lesser mortals' such as Richard Fortey (who is in my opinion is inter alia a very skilled and competent writer) and Conway Morris in my current phase of focus.

 

What really got me in this book was the fact of viruses - human that is of course, not the computer things - and their role in evolution in the raw. I always thought of evolution taking place over inordinately long periods of time and it is only in the recent reading that I have come to realise that in fact it is happening under or ,in the case of things like the various 'flu viruses, inside our very noses. When you start to realise that one of the things that we have identified as part of the mapping of the human genome is that so little of our DNA is actually ours ( as it were) and how much of it appears to be the work of agent or agents unknown (i.e past virus activity).

 

The whole thing starts to make you look at the concept of individual life forms in a very different light to the point that one might begin to wonder how different we really are from, say, the colonies of life that are jellyfish.

 

I don't expect there to be many readers out there who are going to get over excited about this kind of book but if you are there I would welcome comments, views.

 

For those of you who may be mildly interested, there is a lovely story of the sea slug,Elysia Chlorotica, at the beginning of Chapter One that completely hooked me.

 

Currently reading Viruses and Man by F M Burnet, Pelican 1953.

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I don't expect there to be many readers out there who are going to get over excited about this kind of book but if you are there I would welcome comments, views.
Sounds very interesting, I've put it on my wish list. I love this kind of stuff, I remember being told that the mitochondria is thought to have once been a symbiotic parasite that evolution has wholly incorporated as an essential part of every cell. Quite amazing.
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I remember being told that the mitochondria is thought to have once been a symbiotic parasite that evolution has wholly incorporated as an essential part of every cell. Quite amazing.

 

Jen, yes it is : the mitchondria bit is entirely true.

 

In a similar manner, Ryan explains that the little beastie that I referred to (Elyssia chlorotica), uses the chloroplasts of the plant material that it eats at a certain stage in its growth to produce energy in a later stage of its life using photosynthesis. This is all done with the aid of viruses. The downside of this relationship is that at another stage of its ( the beastie's) life cycle the virus kicks in and destroys its 'host' (although I hesitate to use this word in this context).

 

Other areas like that ( without the mass slaughter that is) are the influence of viruses on the placenta in mammals and particularly on the tissues that separate mother and foetus.

 

It is seriously fascinating stuff.

 

It would be difficult to dream it up.

 

Hope you get around to reading it.

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