Animal DNA is full of viral invaders and now we’ve caught them at it

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Retrovirus illustration

Retroviruses can turn their RNA into DNA

KEITH CHAMBERS/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Some mice have sequences in their genome from a virus that infected their fathers. We know that events like this must have happened many times in the ancient past, but this is the first time it has been observed in action. And it involved a virus that we thought couldn’t do this.

The finding means that even more of the DNA of animals derives from viruses than we thought, says Eiichi Hondo at Nagoya University in Japan. It also suggests that viral pandemics can alter the characteristics of …

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