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September 15 2012

Giant Viruses Rewrite History of Life on Earth


The study of giant viruses, described in a paper in the journal BMC Evolutionary Biology, may reshape the universal family tree, adding a fourth major branch to the three that most scientists agree represent the fundamental domains of life.

The researchers used a relatively new method to peer into the distant past. Rather than comparing genetic sequences, which are unstable and change rapidly over time, they looked for evidence of past events in the three-dimensional, structural domains of proteins.

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