University of Texas at Austin

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Evolution at its finest

Tanya Paull

Tanya Paull

What is an example of evolution at its finest, when an elegant efficiency is selected over time, that you’ve come across in your research?

That’s the question The Bulletin of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute posed to four of its investigators. One of them is Tanya Paull, an associate professor in the Section of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology.

Here’s her answer:

“I think the perfect microcosm of efficient evolution is the virus.

A virus uses every nucleotide of its nucleic acid, sometimes many times over, to store all the information it needs in the smallest space.

A virus can change over the course of many years to reproduce successfully in its host but also has the ability to change during the course of a single infection to suppress a host’s defenses.

The random changes that are constantly introduced into the virus genome show us that the virus has evolved to evolve—one of the best examples of the power of natural selection that exists in nature.”

If you have an example, please share it in comments.

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