• Question: How do you anticipate discoveries on viral DNA in frogs could impact our understanding of evolution as a whole?

    Asked by AliceW to Hayley on 29 Nov 2023.
    • Photo: Hayley Free

      Hayley Free answered on 29 Nov 2023:

      Great question! The viral DNA in other vertebrates has told us about host-virus interactions, and the movement of a virus between species. It has also shown us that the host can actually utilise the viral DNA for its benefit. A famous example of this is the syncytin genes in mammals which are vital in placental development. These genes were actually derived from the viral gene that makes the envelope, or outer casing, of the virus. This use of viral DNA (also called gene co-option) has therefore been vital for the evolution of mammals and their placentas! So, learning more about the viral DNA which is within a host can tell us an abundance of things, and as mammals have been the primary focus of this, finding out what viral DNA is within frogs and toads as another branch of vertebrates can add to this understanding.

      Here is some further reading if you are interested:

      Viral Fossil Records: A Look into the Past! (and the Future?)