Darwin’s Surprise

This article was titled Darwin’s Surprise because as a scientist named Robin Weiss stated, “If Charles Darwin reappeared today, he might be surprised to learn that humans are descended from viruses as well as from apes.” Extending on that, I believe that Darwin would find everything in the article appalling. Darwin didn’t know any information about DNA and genes. Therefore, terms like “junk” DNA, retroviruses, endogenous retroviruses, and reverse transcription would be new to Darwin and might even overwhelm him a bit. He might even question viruses because you can’t see them with the the naked eye thus being able to “revive” an extinct virus would really surprise Darwin.

Something that really surprised me was that without endogenous retroviruses mammals might not have ever developed a placenta to protect the fetus to give it time to mature. I would have never thought of humans laying eggs but as Heidmann states, “It is quite possible that, without [viruses], human beings would still be laying eggs.” Still? So does that mean humans were once able to? I am stupefied at the fact that retroviruses has had such an effect like this on our DNA to result us evolving different mechanisms to perpetuate the life of future offspring!


Reading this article has opened my eyes and given me a wider perspective on viruses. This article suggests that viruses have helped us evolve as a species and that certain retroviruses such as endogenous retroviruses. Viruses and parasites seem to have such a negative connotation but really “…our most talented parasites may also make us stronger.”


Although as the article states,  “viruses have much to tell about the origins and the evolution of humanity.” Personally, I feel that by conducting experiments to “revive” these extinct viruses can turn out to be dangerous. There is a reason they are extinct. Yet this research can turn out to be very beneficial because “excavating the molecular past will help address the medical complexities that we confront today.” Anything in science has costs and benefits thus to minimize potential costs precautions should be enforced and followed.  

This entry was posted in AP Biology, Evolution, Viruses. Bookmark the permalink.

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