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Confused over Porcupine, Hedgehog, Echidna similarity and parallel evolution of novel coronavirus

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One can learn a lot about RNA virus, their evolution, infectivity, spontaneous disappearance of several RNA viruses, the repository or inventory stock status of several RNA viruses in nature – domestic/wild animals etc., in the research article entitled “The diversity of human RNA virus” by Mark, Woolhouse and Adair from Centre for immunity, infection, evolution, University of Edinburgh, the research work published in the journal Future virology. 

Viruses are supposedly the first form of life (living-no- living character sharing organism) and the RNA viruses are more rapid than DNA viruses in mutation. Whether the strain of novel coronavirus reported from Wuhan, China is the one that spreads throughout or world or different strains of novel coronaviruses have evolved in different parts of the world under the process of evolution called ‘parallel evolution’ is a million dollar question.   

We cannot deny such possibility because the virus that emerged in one country and supposedly from animal source cannot thrive so successfully in all geographic conditions and population. The virus mutating according to the local conditions means then the virus need not have emerged from single source.

We cannot comment on how such sub-microscopic organism would have got the stimuli simultaneously for parallel evolution in different geographic regions but our inability in case does not rules out such possibility. Our ignorance cannot be an excuse to deny such possibility.

Some of the best examples for animals that had followed parallel evolution with reference to certain anatomical characteristics in nature are, Porcupine, Hedgehog and Echidna; and all these animals have their hair modified as spine or thorny appendage for self-defence.    

Batesian and Mullerian mimicry of several unrelated species such as coral snake, scarlet king snake, hawk moth etc., are best examples for how certain ‘similar’ evolution and adaptations can be advantageous to different animals and that happens even in dissimilar species. 

The question is how the non-poisonous scarlet king snake has learned to evolve and appear/ looks like poisonous coral snake so that it can easily ward off its predators or vice versa, where the poisonous coral snake will be seen as non-poisonous due to its appearance similarity with non-poisonous scarlet king snake remains a mystery? On the contrary, why should most of the poisonous mushrooms and the dart frog appear so attractive? 

Aposematic phenomenon of the novel coronavirus and the anaphylactic reaction of our lung cells or our immune defence system leading to cytokine storm (as cytokine storm is reported to be one of the leading causes of death in COVID 19) can we deny from existence.

If the above possibilities are true, then how every individual in the population in different geography would exhibit same degree of reaction to novel coronavirus? Then should we not consider the manifestations of COVID-19 is more due to the host specific issues where the contribution of the virus may be miniscule and hence chasing the novel coronavirus and imposing shutdown the entire country for indefinite period of time and thereby we can eliminate the virus and virus induced death is a myth and foolish act?

Are we mixing porcupine to hedgehog and hedgehog to be Echidna……. and vice versa due to some anatomical similarity?

If we go by the ‘spine’ similarity in all the above animals, in all likelihood we may end up in saying all animals look similar to our ‘lay eyes’.  But they are totally different and distinct. Even at behaviour level, none of the above three animals would ever exhibit any similarity. 

Is such ‘science wonder’ happening in the case of novel coronavirus also, across the world? Are we trying to fit everything that we observe into one frame that already we have created or manufactured?

The pathogenicity or virulence of the novel coronavirus strain in India may be the least than the one that is prevalent in EU countries and US.

It is like Koala that eats Eucalyptus leaf and lives in Australia while Panda had occupied bamboo thicket ecosystem in sub Himalayan region by eating bamboo leaves. From the objective perspective, both these animals are herbivores, eat leaves, partly and or strictly arboreal, slow movers but still they are totally different. Koala cannot survive with bamboo leaves nor Panda with Eucalyptus leaves? Herbivore exchange in different habitat may not support either of the animals.

Are we complicating the basic, elemental truths in novel coronavirus pandemic with the sophisticated science called genetic sequencing, molecular biology based understanding etc.? Are we missing the most visible by way of searching out the invisible? The basic element of biology and evolution, are we not negating to understand more about novel coronavirus?

We scared our population beyond retraction about coronavirus pandemic and COVID 19.   Like a horror movie show or the conjuring, our electronic and print media houses were competing with each other to report various facets of coronavirus to people on hourly basis. 

Unfortunately we portrayed novel coronavirus as villain and at the same time as hero and caused confusion, even to the virus. Today many least educated people also have started to raise doubts over the existence of novel coronavirus! The extent of scare created by us was so high but fortunately in proportion to the fear created by us, rate of death due to COVID-19 is very low in India. 

Should we credit our medical fraternity for the above or the kindness of YAMA the Lord of death or the inability of novel coronavirus to harm Indians or the enormously high immune surveillance of Indians, difficult answer? 

Our medical fraternity is known to cause scare. Only from fear and ignorance of the patients, they can harvest their crop (not all). But today it looks like the fear and scare over novel coronavirus is giving diminishing returns.   

It is quite clear that novel coronavirus is not that all strong and dominant in India and hence it has caused least trouble. But the lockdown has destroyed our economy. People of India elected Modi with astounding majority and made him decisive and authoritarian leader. Today the same decisive, democratically elected majoritarian government is giving diminishing returns to the people who elected. 

Due to the vast diversity and pluralistic nature of India, weakness is our real strength and not eternal stability or super-dominant leadership or authoritarianism.         

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