Virus Questions [Science Fiction]

About microscopic forms of life, including Bacteria, Archea, protozoans, algae and fungi. Topics relating to viruses, viroids and prions also belong here.

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Tenebrae
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Virus Questions [Science Fiction]

Post by Tenebrae » Tue Nov 25, 2014 4:43 am

1:) Could/Can viruses carry an electrical impulse?
2:) Could/Can viruses perceive their environment through some sort of sensory mechanics? (Chemical, Sound, Electrical?)
3:) Could a virus assemble in a manner akin to a slime mold?
4:) Could a group of assembled viruses, of the same species, hold a thought and work in a manner akin to a brain cell?

Basically, I'm interested in whether or not these are theoretically possible. I'm working on a science fiction race that's entirely composed of a single virus, right down to the skeletal system composed of dead variants assembled in a manner best suited for density and support. The still living viruses mass around this skeletal structures in order to form a composit entity in a manner akin to how we're a bunch of living cells with a single consciousness. These creatures, however, will be more akin to slime molds due to their simplicity...so I need to know if a fluid system of viruses massed together in this manner could form a system that can transfer electrical impulses and thus have a communal intelligence.

I believe the ability to control the skeletal structure can be explained through a virus that has a shape capable of assembling with others into a myriad of different shapes to form more elastic structures that mimic muscle tissue...but I'm unsure. Either way, if a fluid system of viruses being able to possess a communal consciousness is impossible...that tends to make the idea fall a little flat. If it's theoretically possible, that gives me what I need to open the door of science fiction and flesh the race out.

Unlike you and I, they wouldn't produce much waste...

Instead, they would simply grapple a host and proceed to break their cellular structure down into additional viruses to replace those that have died off through the course of time. I assume that this would be a very efficient predator because they wouldn't produce much waste beyond dead viruses and they wouldn't even need to kill their prey, simply get themselves inside through a cut or bite. Prey could be attacked, infected, and then the viral load could be harvested later as it incubated within the host...

Anyway, you got a sense of what I'm going for here...thoughts? I know this is an odd question considering what I want the answers for, but I figure it's still something interesting to speculate on, no? Thanks for taking the time to read everyone.

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JackBean
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Post by JackBean » Wed Nov 26, 2014 7:14 pm

Since viruses are not alive, the answer to ALL your questions is NO.
BTW how do you imagine slime mold assembling?

Viruses live only inside their hosts and there's ongoing discussion whether they are alive outside of hosts, but there is no metabolism, no perception etc.
http://www.biolib.cz/en/main/

Cis or trans? That's what matters.

Tenebrae
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Re:

Post by Tenebrae » Wed Nov 26, 2014 9:13 pm

JackBean wrote:Since viruses are not alive, the answer to ALL your questions is NO.
BTW how do you imagine slime mold assembling?

Viruses live only inside their hosts and there's ongoing discussion whether they are alive outside of hosts, but there is no metabolism, no perception etc.


As far as I know, slime molds simply come together into a gelatinous blob with extremely limited mobility; comparing the concept that I'm going for was simply a crude comparison to give a generalized idea idea. The more complex assembling-concept isn't related to slime molds, but what I was going for is a concept where the individual viruses would group up and attach via their tail fibers in order to change their density from gelatinous to a more elastic substance that mimics muscle tissue...which I'm not even sure is possible. Basically, on the micro scale you would have each individual virus grappling one another via these tail fibers and on the macro scale, the result would be a more elastic material instead of a completely free flowing substance.

I'm aware that there's no metabolism and I figured that there wasn't any form of perception either. I'm curious if they have the potential to evolve some form of perception in the future, however distant it might be, and what that type of perception might that be if that were the case. Obviously it wouldn't be sight or anything extremely complex...but is there anything that something that small could use to perceive its environment?

The "feeding" concept that I mentioned previously works no different than current viruses...I wasn't trying to imply a metabolism. Assuming the concept would be possible simply for the sake of explanation, these creatures would lose mass as individual viruses lost their ability to infect throughout the course of time and break down. So, they still need to infect a host to replicate and they then harvest what has been produced to replenish the lost bulk.

Hope that clarifies what I mean and thank you very much for the reply!

I'm assuming that this concept would be a lot more feasible if I shift gears from a virus to a viral-like cell?

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Post by wildfunguy » Wed Dec 03, 2014 12:31 am

Don't listen to him. he has no imagination.

Viruses can't translate their genetic material into proteins except by hijacking a cell. It will have to build its body from inside the host. Maybe this virus hijacks the reproductive system to grow itself. Unfortunately, I don't see how something as complicated and coordinated as embrylogical development could occur without cells that translate their own genetic material. But it's nothing that can't be solved by blurring the line between cell and virus.

I think the most believable scenario is that it's a normal cellular organism that evolved from a virus, but still depends on a viral phase to infect hosts for reprocution, somewhat like how plants gradually transitioned from a gametophyte-dominant life cycle to a sporophyte-dominant life cycle.

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