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Hist Philos Life Sci. 2012;34(3):391-406.

The place of viruses in biology in light of the metabolism- versus-replication-first debate.

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Unité d'Ecologie, Systématique et Evolution, CNRS UMR8079, Université Paris-Sud, 91405 Orsay, France.


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.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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