On the viruses driven species evolution

Y. B. Karasik,
Thoughts Guiding Systems Corp.,
Ottawa, Canada.
e-mail:karasik@sympatico.ca

The world is gripped with a fear - the fear of Zika virus. It recently appeared out of the blue and started causing microcephaly in the newborn babies. If a pregnant woman is bitten by a mosquito infected with Zika, then her baby will likely have a smaller brain, which will impair intellectual development.

It is yet unknown whether these microcephalic individuals will be able to reproduce or not. Suppose they will. Then the questions arises: will their offsprings be also microcephalic or not? It depends on whether Zika modifies babies' DNAs by introducing microcephaly gene. It is well known that viruses are capable of modifying DNA of infected people and that about 8% of human genome consists of viruses that inserted themselves into our DNA during past infections. What is yet unknown is whether Zika modifies DNA of newborn babies so that microcephaly could be transmitted from generation to generation. Suppose it does. Then Zika would be first virus to demonstrate that new species could be in principle produced by viruses.

While no real new species is expected to emerge due to Zika because microcephalic people have no advantages over normal people, the question arises whether there could be anti-Zika viruses that cause a bigger brain than in normal humans. Such viruses that cause emergence of advantages rather than disadvantages in species are quite possible.

If there were quantum leaps in species' evolution then they could very well be caused by such viruses. The emergence of humans could also be the result of such mosquito bites infected with anti-Zika viruses that caused consecutive brain size increases rather than decreases until monkey turned into a human.

This hypothesis breaks a new ground in evolution research, as well as in viruses research. It also demonstrates the usefulness of 36 windows approach presented in another article of this issue.