A Human Quasispecies?
What if space-faring humans could evolve as a quasispecies? Could this be one way to adapt to a new planet?
A quasispecies is a population of RNA viruses such as HIV (AIDS) or Hepatitis C. RNA genomes have high mutation rates; as high as 10% per base, for HIV. So the vast majority of progeny are “defective” — but: (1) More than one virus particle infects a host cell, so they complement each other’s defects; and (2) some progeny virions have new properties that enable them to infect other tissues, like brain.
Whenever HIV infects a new host, it generates a quasispecies of different virion types. We now consider the quasispecies, with all its variants, as the true evolving unit.
Suppose a form of human with an RNA genome could “infect” a new planet. Would we quickly produce all kinds of offspring who could take advantage of the new world, and complement each other? Of course, many would die, but then that always happens to new colonists, like the Europeans at Jamestown.
Perhaps more acceptable would be for humans to bring “starter” RNA-life of several types, such as vascular RNA-plants, RNA-invertebrate and RNA-vertebrate animal. TheRNA-vertebrate, for example, would soon generate a quasispecies including swimming forms, crawling forms, flying forms, etc.