Viruses Scout Evolution's Path

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Science  28 Nov 1997:
Vol. 278, Issue 5343, pp. 1563-1564
DOI: 10.1126/science.278.5343.1563

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ARNHEM, THE NETHERLANDS-- At a meeting of the European Society for Evolutionary Biology here in August, researchers described studies in viruses that point to a possible resolution of a dispute about the trajectory of evolution. One theory argues that evolution is like a staircase on which organisms evolve through a series of small genetic steps, while another postulates that genetic and environmental changes can derail the evolutionary process, picturing evolution as taking place on a landscape of numerous peaks and valleys where harmful mutations can displace an organism from a peak into a valley. The virus cultures described at the meeting suggested that both metaphors may be valid.