A free paper that explains the basics of viral quasispecies!!! YAAAAAY!!!

Quasispecies Theory and the Behavior of RNA Viruses

ARG! I have been wanting a paper like this to come out for AGES! I dont back down from explaining complex topics to you guys, but ‘quasispecies’ is just so weird…

I am going to reference this thing all the time now!

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!! Survival of the flattest!



  1. #1 jose
    August 4, 2010

    Thanks ERV!

    Apparently the link isn’t working right now (at least from Spain). Here’s one that works.

  2. #2 Wolf
    August 4, 2010

    PLOS is so much full of <3 ...

    My favorite feeding grounds is PLOS genetics, but... Whatever it gets the info C:

  3. #3 japanther
    August 5, 2010


    Please do break this down for sub-under-graduates like me. Is the term in reference to something like this (forgive the stupid, might burn):

    Quasi-species of HIV include the many strains that statistically will statistically develop (repeatedly, if I understand correctly)?


    Quasi-species is a term for ‘VIRUS IS SORTA ALIVE’?


    Should I lurk moar?


  4. #4 Blake Stacey
    August 5, 2010

    Strangely enough, just the other day I was wanting a good reference on the whole quasispecies idea . . . KTHNX!!

  5. #5 Orakio
    August 5, 2010

    Thanks for the resources, ERV. It’s a beautiful thing to see I was almost on the right track.

    It’s kind of hard to understand how raising the mutation rate is likely to destabilize the entire quasi-species, though: Is this because we see that any given generation of viruses, even a fit one, has an very low ‘success’ rate at reproduction due to the extremely hostile environment? I would have thought that given the sheer number of viruses that one viral particle can create that a succesful infection would be maintained – a small percentage of a huge number is still a pretty large number, after all. Or am I overestimating the replication rate?

    @#3: It’s a bit more complex than that, but your first point is correct in essence, japanther. The key point is that the evolutionary fitness of the quasispecies is not the height of any given peak in the graphs that they show, but the total area beneath that peak – high mutation rate means that a tall, narrow peak will not last.

  6. #6 Gabriel Hanna
    August 5, 2010

    I think I understand it, but maybe not.

    So, if you have a population of something and it breeds quickly and mutates a lot, it will quickly specialize for a stable environment. So, imagine a little guy that lives in treetops, or under water, or in the desert.

    But suppose the environment is very unstable–these little guys could be living in treetops one day, under water the next, and in a desert a week later. It would be impossible for them to specialize, and what would be favored would be a very broad and flexible genome that can cope with a lot of different things, though not necessarily very well.

    And is that what is meant by “survival of the flattest”?

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