|MadSci Network: Virology|
Do viruses evolve? Yes, constantly. One instance where this has been quite closely followed and detailed is HIV. Extensive sequencing has detailed the adaptation of the virus to humans and indicate that it may have evolved from a virus that infects other primates, notably chimpanzees. There are numerous books and scientific articles on the origins and evolution of HIV you can look up for greater detail. A "hardcore" science text would "The Evolution of HIV" by Keith Crandall, et al. You could read "The River" by Edward Hooper - one you're more likely to find in your local library - but keep in mind that his theory on the origins of AIDS (the oral polio vaccine) has already been debunked. But he covers a lot of information about the "jump" of HIV from monkeys to humans. Will they evolve into living organisms? Depending on who you talk to, they already are living organisms. They are not self-sufficient and must hijack the cellular machinery of their host to reproduce, but there are plenty of "living organisms" that are obligate parasites as well (Plasmodium species that cause malaria, for example). Cells of eukaryotic organisms contain mitochondria which are the "energy factories" of the cell; it has been suggested that mitochondia were once primitive bacteria that developed a symbiotic relationship with the ancestors of eukaryotic cells. To rephrase your question a different way: are viruses likely to become self-sufficient and no longer require a host cell to reproduce? No.
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