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Viruses as prey?

FARRELL_LARRY farrlarr at cwis.isu.edu
Thu Aug 31 13:05:07 EST 1995

In article <41shoi$t0g at newsbf02.news.aol.com>, EdRegis <edregis at aol.com> wrote:
>Does anyone know if viruses serve as food for any other types of organism?
> Or are they (relatively) alone in being without natural predators?

As non-living entities, it is highly unlikely that viruses would serve as 
"prey" for other organisms.  

Having said that, however,  let's look a bit closer at the overall 
situation.  Organisms usually prey on other organisms because the prey 
provides energy and molecular building blocks that the predator can 
utilize for its own processes (and there is usually some selection for 
taste, availability and the likelihood that the prey is more dangerous to 
the predator than vice versa).  Given that viruses consist of materials 
(proteins, nucleic acids, lipids, carbohydrates) that can be degraded to 
provide energy and building blocks, there is nothing about viruses per se 
that would suggest that they might not be used as "food sources" by other 
organisms.  However, that uptake by the "predator" would result in the 
virus being introduced into a living cell and, given the ability of 
viruses to take advantage of cellular processes for their own 
replication, might give the virus an opportunity to replicate and 
(probably) kill that cell.  The possibility that the "predator" might die 
as a result of uptake of a presumed food source is obviously not an 
optimal foraging strategy for the "predator."  Again, it seems highly 
unlikely that viruses would serve as "prey" for other organisms.

Larry D. Farrell, Ph.D.
Professor of Microbiology
Idaho State University

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