Book explores impact of viruses on evolution

Although viruses technically may not be alive, their contribution to the dynamic web of life is undeniable. A new book, published by ASM Press, focuses on the role that viruses have played and continue to play in the evolution of life.

Viruses and the Evolution of Life offers the informed reader a new perspective on evolution and the expert reader discussions of specific scientific literature.

“From prebiotic chemical replicators to unicellular life to human populations, viruses affect life’s outcome and give an ever-changing shape to the fitness landscape, often determining which organisms will survive,” says author Luis P. Villarreal of the University of California, Irvine, in his preface. “Viruses are an inherent and, I would suggest, essential ingredient in the web of life. It is time to acknowledge and study the role of viruses in the web of life, be they living or not.”

Starting with prebiotic forerunners of life, the book features an engaging discussion of various life forms and how each group has been affected by viruses. Villarreal develops the concept of and distinction between acute and persisting viruses, an area that has heretofore largely been ignored. The relationship between the familiar disease-causing viruses and those viruses from which they emerge is also examined.

Viruses and the Evolution of Life can be ordered from ASM Press via the website at www.asmpress.org.

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