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History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences - Vol. 34, no. 3 (2012)
Article

Purificación López-García, The Place of Viruses in Biology in Light of the Metabolismversus-replication-first Debate


Abstract

The last decade has seen a revival of old virocentric ideas. These concepts are heterogeneous, extending from proposals that consider viruses functionally as living beings and/or as descendants of viral lineages that preceded cell evolution to other claims that consider viruses and/or some viral families a fourth domain of life. While the debates about whether viruses are alive or not and whether some virus-like replicators preceded the first cells fall under the long-lasting dichotomous view on the nature and origin of life (metabolism- versus replication-first), the claim that some giant viruses form a fourth domain in an organismal tree of life is not consistent with current evidence and can be falsified.


Keywords

Tree of life, metabolism, self-replication, origin of life, definition of life, giant viruses, horizontal gene transfer, evolution


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