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AstroVirology, Viruses, Evolution, Metamorphosis, Plagues, and Diseases From Space

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Abstract

Astrovirology is the study of beneficial vs harmful viruses that originated from comets, meteors, solar winds, and ejecta from other planets, or which mutated when lofted by winds into the upper atmosphere. That these upper atmospheric and putative extraterrestrial viruses have contributed to the evolution of the biosphere and life on Earth, and caused disease and plague, is discussed, and the role of astro-viruses and endogenous retroviruses in the evolution of life and biosphere is reviewed. Evolution leading to the Cambrian Explosion and continuing to humans is characterized by repeated viral invasions and insertion of retroviral genes into host species' genomes. "Evolution" parallels the genetic-biological engineering of the environment (e.g. oxygen production), which activates inherited retroviral genes. Viral plagues are associated with comets, and have caused extinctions that served to promote evolution and eradicate those not "fit." Given evidence of life on Mars and association of plague with comets, extraterrestrial viruses may be commonplace. Extraterrestrial viruses may have acquired genes via interplanetary horizontal gene transfer which in turn have been transferred to the genomes of eukaryotes on Earth. "Evolution" may be the metamorphosis and replication of life and biospheres that evolved on other planets.
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AstroVirology, Viruses, Evolution, Metamorphosis, Plagues,
and Diseases From Space
Rhawn Gabriel Joseph
Astrobiology Research Center, California, USA
Journal of Astrobiology, Vol 11, 21-44, Published 1/1/2022
(Special Edition: Astrovirology, Diseases From Space, NASA’s Sample Return)
ABSTRACT
Astrovirology is the study of beneficial vs harmful viruses that originated from comets, meteors, solar
winds, and ejecta from other planets, or which mutated when lofted by winds into the upper atmosphere.
That these upper atmospheric and putative extraterrestrial viruses have contributed to the evolution of the
biosphere and life on Earth, and caused disease and plague, is discussed, and the role of astro-viruses and
endogenous retroviruses in the evolution of life and biosphere is reviewed. Evolution leading to the
Cambrian Explosion and continuing to humans is characterized by repeated viral invasions and insertion
of retroviral genes into host species’ genomes. “Evolution” parallels the genetic-biological engineering of
the environment (e.g. oxygen production), which activates inherited retroviral genes. Viral plagues are
associated with comets, and have caused extinctions that served to promote evolution and eradicate those
not “fit.” Given evidence of life on Mars and association of plague with comets, extraterrestrial viruses
may be commonplace. Extraterrestrial viruses may have acquired genes via interplanetary horizontal gene
transfer which in turn have been transferred to the genomes of eukaryotes on Earth. “Evolution” may be
the metamorphosis and replication of life and biospheres that evolved on other planets.
Key Words: Astrovirology, viruses from space, retroviruses, disease, plague, comets, covid, contagion,
evolution, extinction, Cambrian Explosion.
*RhawnJoseph@gmail.com
1. Viruses and Astrobiology
“Viruses are entities whose genomes are elements of nucleic acid that replicate inside living cells
using the cellular synthetic machinery and causing the synthesis of specialized elements that can transfer
the viral genome to other cells’ (Luria et al., 1978). As recognized by NASA (Hays 2015), some viruses
may have originated in space, others may have undergone mutations in the upper atmosphere. These
(along with terrestrial viruses) may have contributed to the evolutionary development of life on this
planet and repeated episode of plague (Joseph, 2000, 2009a,b; Joseph & Wickramasinghe, 2010).
Collectively, this field of study is known as “astrovirology.”
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Viruses employ single or double stranded RNA or DNA. The extracellular protein shell that
surrounds all viruses are referred to as “virions” and resemble inert particles. Because the virion encloses
(caps) the virus, it is also referred to as a “capsid.” The virus capsid is layered and consists of repeating
substructures referred to as “capsomeres.” The virion/capsid protein shell may also include lipids. These
extracellular lipids and proteins, package and envelop viral genomic nucleic acid which can be composed
of DNA or RNA (Koonin & Dolja 2013, 2014; Schulz et al. 2017). The virion/capsid is inert and can be
considered distinct from the infective viral DNA/RNA within. Considered as a totality, these components
form a “virus” --a semi-polyhedral- or helical-symmetrical or pleomorphic “genetic seed” that can
replicate when exposed to a suitable host-environment (Joseph 2000, 2013).
Viruses are host specific, and consist of single (ss) or double-stranded (ds) DNA or RNA. By
contrast, the genomes of prokaryotes and eukaryotes are composed of dsDNA (Koonin et al. 2006; Rice
2004; Raoult et al. 2004, 2008). Viruses may range in size from 20 nm to over 1 mm for the giant viruses
(Koonin & Dolja 2014; Schulz et al. 2017). Virus genomes can range in number from less than three
genes and 2000 bases of nucleotides to dozens and even hundreds of genes consisting of over 2.5 million
base pairs of RNA or ss/dsDNA (Aherfi et al., 2016; Koonin & Dolja 2014; Schulz et al. 2017).
If viruses are alive is a matter of debate. Certainly, while in an inert state they could be likened to
spores or seeds. However, when in contact with a host they become metabolically active and engage in
parasitic behaviors. However, in contrast to parasites, viruses insert their DNA or RNA into the genome
of the host which is hijacked and subverted for the purpose of viral replication (Luria et al., 1978; Koonin
& Dolja 2014; Schulz et al. 2017). This is accomplished via horizontal gene transfer (HGT). When
viruses invade eukaryotes, they may sicken the host and eventually die. However, unless an entire species
is eradicated, virus induced illness that kills the host may be a genetic programming error, due to a mis-
match between virus and host (Joseph 2010a; Joseph & Wickramasinghe 2010). Most viruses are benign
and many contribute benefits to the host or to the fitness of a species if the weak, sick and genetically-
defective are eradicated.
Viruses including retroviruses!precisely target specific species and host cells. They maintain a
"lock and key" relationship with specific hosts. Further, the ease at insertion and integration indicates that
the viral RNA or DNA genome is often a perfect fit and genetically similar if not identical to select
regions of the genome of the targeted host. This is why viral genes can also regulate gene expression in
the host and which are of benefit to the host.
Viral genes may be inserted into the genome of the host then passed on to offspring and
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subsequent species. These later type of viruses are called endogenous retrovirus (ERV) and have had a
direct impact on evolution leading to humans. In fact, human evolution has been shaped by successive
waves of viral invasion (Joseph 2000, 2009b; López-Sánchez et al., 2005; Romano et al., 2007).
In general, the viral replication cycle begins with the binding of a virion to a host cell followed by
injection and delivery of the viral genome into the host’s genome which is reprogrammed to produce
more viruses which infect other cells in a rapidly increasing repeatable cycle thereby producing hundreds,
thousands, or millions of viruses (Luria et al., 1978; Koonin & Dolja 2014; Schulz et al. 2017).
Viruses invade archaea, bacteria, and eukaryotes. Viruses that infect bacteria may utilize the
bacteria as a temporary host whose purpose is to attach or invade other bacteria or eukaryotes. A
substantial portion of the prokaryotic (bacteria and archaea) genome consists of viral bacteriophages. The
bacteria will then inject the viral genome into the host cell (IHGSC 2001).
Over the course of evolutionary history genes have been repeatedly inserted, via HGT, from
viruses into prokaryotes and from both into the eukaryotic genome where they are incorporated into and
may hijack genetic regulatory mechanisms (Luria et al., 1978; Koonin & Dolja 2014; Schulz et al. 2017;
IHGSC 2001). Subsequently, the genes and nucleotides of the host or invader, may then be shuffled or
recombined and shifted to a different region of the genome where they may be activated or silenced such
that entire networks of genes may be inhibited or expressed. However, there is nothing random about
these processes, as they are under precise genetic control and perform highly regulated functions that
either reproduce viruses and sicken or kill the host, and/or which, via lock-key integration, benefit the
host, the species and the environment (Suttle, 2007; Joseph 2010b); genetic interactions which have
guided what has been termed evolution (Koonin et al. 2006; Enard et al., 2016; López-Sánchez et al.,
2005; Romano et al., 2007) and “evolutionary metamorphosis” (Joseph 1997, 2000).
If viral contributions to successive stages of “evolution” are under genetic control, and if these
viruses were deposited from space, then this suggests that the regulatory and information genes that have
been inserted, are also of extraterrestrial origin and that what is called “evolution” is a form of
metamorphosis (Joseph 2000, 2010a,b); i.e. genetically altered organisms act on and change the
environment such as by releasing oxygen, and the changing environment acts on gene selection such that
endogenous viral and bacterial genes that have been passed down over subsequent generations are
activated thereby producing evolutionary and environmental change: the replication of species that long
ago evolved on other planets.
By contrast, mutated viruses and viruses that received inserted genes from bacteria or other
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viruses, may instead insert “errors” into the eukaryotic host genome, such that viral replication attacks the
immune system and the host sickens or dies (Joseph 1997, 2000). Death, however, can also be adaptive
and benefit other organisms (Suttle, 2007). Viruses, acting as “predators” may serve to selectively kill the
weak, the old, those already sick, disabled or genetically defective, and thus those who are not “fit”
thereby insuring that only “healthy” organisms survive and reproduce. Mass extinctions, in some
instances, may be due to viral invasions which program the death of entire species; a form of
evolutionary apoptosis (like programmed cell death) thus enabling other species to evolve (Joseph 2000,
2010a). For example, it’s been proposed that viral-laden meteors and asteroids, upon striking Earth and
its upper atmosphere, released trillions of viral organisms that contributed to the demise and mass
extinction of the dinosaurs around 65 million years ago (Joseph & Wickramasinghe 2010). Moreover,
prior to the final coup de gras, waves of viruses had already invaded the genomes of various species of
the egg-laying repto-mammals (Joseph 2000) triggering the evolution of the placenta (Lavialle et al.,
2013; Mi et al. 2000) and thus: mammals. The eradication of “dinosaurs” cleared a path for the
proliferation and continued evolution of mammals with their retroviral-infested genomes.
2. Viruses, Oceans, Comets, & Extreme Environment
There are more viruses (Suttle, 2005) and more species and varieties of virus, than any other form
of Earthly life; with estimates ranging from millions to billions of viral species (Rohwer, 2003; Brum et
al., 2015) and billions of trillions of viruses on this planet alone and which outnumber bacteria by ratios
of up to 100 to 1 (Porter et al., 2007). Viruses are extremely ancient (Koonin et al. 2006) and are
believed to predate the three domains of cellular life (Rice et al., 2004; Krupovicˇ & Bamford, 2011) and
thus the origin of life on Earth (Joseph 2000, Joseph & Schild, 2010a,b).
Earth’s oceans are believed to contain over 1031 viruses (Rohwer, 2003; Suttle, 2005) whereas vast
numbers of viruses populate rivers, lakes, hot springs and deep sea hydrothermal vents (Geslin et al.,
2003: Gorlas et al., 2012; Mochizuki et al., 2011; Suttle, 2007). Water is a virus-friendly environment
and water is the most common molecule in the cosmos. Therefore, it is possible that water-infested-
viruses may have been initially deposited on Earth via watery comets, asteroids and meteors during the
heavy bombardment era (Joseph 2000) which gave rise to the oceans (Albertsson et al. 2014; O’Brien et
al. 2018, Marov et al. 2018) which are infiltrated with billions of trillions of viruses.
Viruses are found in all environments, no matter how extreme (Fekete et al., 2004; Romancer et al.,
2007; Walker, 1970) including extremely acidic hot springs with temperatures up to 93°C, and pH 4.5
(Häring et al., 2005; Rice et al., 2001), within hypersaline water at saturation where they outnumber
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bacteria 10–100-fold (Porter et al., 2007), and in deserts, soda lakes, deep sea thermal vents, and under
incredible hydrostatic pressures (Romancer et al., 2007). Viruses also survive direct exposure to space
and simulated space-like environments (Fekete et al., 2004, 2005; Walker, 1970), and viral particles have
been discovered in meteor fragments (Pflug 1984). For almost a hundred years a number of scientists
have suspected that comets orbiting toward and away from Earth may harbor and release trillions of
viruses into space. This may account for the association between comets and plague that was first
documented by Chinese astronomers thousands of years ago (Li Ch'un Feng 648, A.D.).
3. Viruses, Plagues, Comets, and Diseases From Space
Ancient Chinese astronomers in a series of books known as the "Mawangdui Silk" meticulously
chronicled repeated episodes over a thousand years where plague became rampant when comets appeared
over head. As summed up by Li Ch'un Feng (648, A.D.), the Director, Chinese Imperial Astronomical
Bureau: "Comets are vile stars. Every time they appear in the south, they wipe out the old and establish
the new. Fish grow sick, crops fail, Emperors and common people die... The people hate life and don't
even want to speak of it."
Two-thousand-five-hundred years ago Hippocrates (the father of Western medicine) also taught
that comets were a source of disease that could contaminate crops and cause death to humans and
animals. In the first century AD, an outbreak of a devastating pandemic in Libya, Egypt, and Syria, was
directly associated with a passing comet by the Greek physician and poet, Marcus Manilius (10-20 AD):
"Death comes with those celestial torches, which threaten earth with the blaze of pyres unceasing, since
heaven and nature's self are stricken and seem doomed to share men's tomb.... and comets blaze into life
and perish."
A plague erupted in the Auvergne region of France in 567 A.D., and coincided with “brilliant
lights” appearing between the Sun and Earth; and the heavens appeared to be “on fire” as reported by
Gregory of Tours who documented these events. The “strange” lights were so bright they lit up the sky
not just at night but during the day. Gregory stated that these “strange” apparitions were also seen in
Rome, one which resembled a fiery “dragon” that disappeared over the sea. Soon thereafter the plague
began to ravage and kill off the people.
In January of 1117, “a comet passed like a fiery army from the North towards the Orient, the
moon was o’ercast blood red in an eclipse... a light appeared more brilliant than the sun. This was
followed by... plague of which one third of humanity is said to have perished (Nolh 1926).
Repeated outbreaks of plague in Europe between 1298 and 1314 were heralded by seven different
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comets, a “column of fire,” and a “ball of fire” as witnessed in Italy, Rome, and France. (Lycosthenes,
1557; Deaux 1969).
The bubonic “Black Death” (1334-1350AD), which may have killed over a 100 million people in
Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, is also directly associated with a comet, i.e. “through the operation of
the heavenly bodies” that first appeared over China. “The first reports” of the plague “came out of the
East.... descriptions of storms and earthquakes of meteors and comets trailing noxious gases that killed
trees and destroyed the fertility of the land” (Deaux 1969). The plague then rapidly spread, sometimes
killing everyone in its path. However, not only were major population centers linked by shipping lanes
and overland merchants effected, but isolated communities, including Bedouins and other desert-dwelling
tribes (Nolh 1926; Deaux 1969). Furthermore, in Europe, this same “Black Death” also was noted to
spread following the appearance of a “heavenly body” a comet (Nohl, 1926, Giovanni Boccaccio “The
Decameron”).
In the Introduction to his book, “The Decameron” by Giovanni Boccaccio wrote: “there came the
death-dealing pestilence, which, through the operation of the heavenly bodies... had some years before
appeared in the parts of the East and after having bereft these latter of an innumerable number of
inhabitants... had now unhappily spread towards the West... in men and women alike there appeared, at
the beginning of the malady, certain swellings... some waxed of the bigness of a common apple....
these.... death-bearing plague-boils proceeded, in brief space, to appear and come indifferently in every
part of the body; wherefrom, after awhile... the contagion began to change into black or livid blotches... a
very certain token of coming death... both men and women, abandoned their own city, their own houses
and homes, their kinsfolk and possessions...this tribulation had stricken such terror to the hearts of all,
men and women alike, that brother forsook brother, uncle nephew and sister brother and oftentimes wife
husband; nay fathers and mothers refused to visit or tend their very children, as if they had not been
theirs.... the common people... sickened by the thousand daily and being altogether untended and
unsuccoured, died well nigh all without recourse. Many breathed their last in the open street, whilst other
many, for all they died in their houses, made it known to the neighbours that they were dead rather by the
stench of their rot.” The onset could be sudden and death would rapidly follow: “One could eat lunch
with friends and have dinner with ancestors in paradise.”
Often, after the appearance of a comet, foul smelling noxious mists appeared, often described as
“infected air” that was spreading the plague (Nolh 1926; Deaux 1969). “In the year 1506 a comet was
seen, after which a general plague traversed the world. In 1582 a comet brought so violent a plague upon
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Majo, Prague, Thuringia, the Netherlands, and other places...” Dozens of comets were seen in those
years. “Often strange noxious mists also soon pervaded the land” followed by “plague” such that “plague
hung in the air” (Nolh 1926)
Pandemics, including the “Black Death” (“bubonic plague”) are believed to be caused by the
bacillus Yersinia pestis, in which flea-infected rodents act as an intermediate vector. In fact, Yersinia
pestis is believed to be the causative agent responsible for at least three major human pandemics (Joseph
& Wickramasinghe 2010): the Justinian plague (6th to 8th centuries), the Black Death (14th and 19th
centuries) and many modern plagues (21st century). But what is the source of the bacillus? Why did it
become infectious? The answer might include: viruses which accompany, surround, and infect bacteria
via viral horizontal gene transfer (HGT); and all of which may have fallen from space.
Viruses commonly infect bacteria which served as hosts which then attach themselves to potential
eukaryotic hosts. Infection takes place through a syringe-like apparatus by which the bacteria can inject
bacterial virulence factors (effectors) into the eukaryotic cytosol of eukaryotic host cells. Yersinia pestis,
however, are anaerobic and must live within host cells during the infective phase of its life cycle (Brown
et al., 2006; Wickham et al., 2007). Because they are anaerobic, they are completely dependent on their
host species. Once the host dies, they die. Then, how it is it these bacillus and viral infective agents
reappear hundreds of years later to attack again? Where do these viruses and viral infected bacteria come
from? If ancient sources are to be believed: from comets, meteors and other celestial objects; i.e. they fall
from the sky.
4. Viruses From the Upper Atmosphere and Space
These anaerobic bacillus microbes are resistant to freezing (Torosian et al., 2009). Space and the
upper atmosphere provide an ideal anaerobic, freezing environment; and microbes have been discovered
in the upper atmosphere, at heights ranging from 41 km (Wainwright et al., 2010) to 77 km (Imshenetsky,
1978) and thus in both the stratosphere and the mesophere which is also where comets, asteroids and
meteors first begin to fragment as they strike the upper atmosphere. Further, it is well established that
viruses and all manner of microorganisms can survive long term exposure to space (reviewed by Joseph
et al. 2020a). Could these atmospheric microbes and viruses have originated in meteors or from other
stellar debris? Or might they have have been lofted via powerful winds from the surface of Earth to the
upper atmosphere?
Distinct species of over 1,8000 different types of bacteria and other microbes thrive and flourish
within the troposphere, the first layer of the Earth's atmosphere (Brodie et al. 2007). Due to tropical
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storms, monsoons, and even seasonal upwellings of columns of air, microbes, spores, fungi, along with
water, methane, and other gases may be transported to the stratosphere (Joseph et al. 2019). Air is an
ideal transport mechanism and serves as a major pathway for the dispersal of bacteria, virus particles,
algae, protozoa, lichens, and fungi including those which dwell in soil and water. Microorganisms and
spores have been recovered at heights up to 77-km (Imshenetsky, 1978), including Mycobacterium and
Micrococcus, and fungi Aspergillus niger, Circinella muscae, and Penicillium notatum. Hence, it can be
readily assumed that microbes not only flourish in the troposphere, but, along with viruses, are commonly
lofted into the stratosphere.
Wainwright et al., (2010) argue that the genomes of microbes in the upper atmosphere may suffer
UV-ray induced mutations. Further, cyclic fluctuations in solar activity could also directly impact the
genomes of microbes and viruses within the upper atmosphere. If these mutations are pathological is
probable; and it’s possible that sunspots and heightened solar activity may be linked in some way with
pandemics and viral mutations. Thus, if they originate in space or from Earth, those microbes or viruses
who suffer UV damage or genetic mutations due to radiation and cyclic increases in solar activity, may
also insert these mutated genes via HGT into other bacteria which then infect the animals and plants of
Earth with viral RNA or DNA. Therefore, it is probable that upper atmospheric viruses, bacteria, fungi,
and a variety of micro-organisms may mutate and develop pathological properties. Once they fall back to
Earth, various diseases and possibly even pandemics result.
Consider, for example, the 1918 flu pandemic which was caused by the combination of new viral
genes with old viral genes, such that a new viral strain transferred its genes to an old viral strain, creating
a deadly hybrid which killed maybe as many as 100 million humans (Joseph & Wickramasinghe 2010).
However, the first to be infected were birds, thus suggesting the source of the disease came from the sky.
If viruses are falling from the upper atmosphere, they may include organisms and viruses that may
have originated in space. In one study, over 800 million viruses per square meter per day were collected
at a height of 4000 meters (Reche, et al. 2018); and tons of extraterrestrial dust, debris and strike the
upper atmosphere daily--and to which microbes and viruses may be attached. In total, these findings
suggest that billions of trillions of viruses rain down from the sky every day; most of which must be
benign and harmless.
5. Comets, Plague & Corona Virus
Although viruses are likely lofted into the upper atmosphere from Earth, it is possible that trillions
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of viruses are extraterrestrial and, along with bacteria, fungi and spores, may be propelled through space
by solar and galactic winds (Joseph 2009a,b), and dispersed by comets (Joseph & Wickramasinghe
2010). When a comet approaches the sun, surface layers of ice begin to heat, melt, and vaporize. The
comet then sheds particles comprised of silicates (rocks), water molecules, dust, organic material and
ionized gas. These ejecta form two separate tails - a plasma tail and a dust tail, each of which are millions
of miles in length. If viruses and bacteria are also being released, then some would likely fall to Earth.
Comet Encke made close approaches to Earth on June 16, 1908, and again on October 27 1914,
and was at perihelion (closest to the sun) on 1918; and throughout this period, as it crossed and recrossed
the orbit of Earth. Comet Encke shed a million mile trail of ice, rock and dust some which streaked
through the atmosphere of Earth. Soon thereafter a new pandemic began to rage: a viral influenza, the
“Spanish flu” which killed from 30 to 60 million people (Joseph & Wickramasinghe 2010). There were
in fact three separate waves of infection: Populations in many cities and villages were decimated in a
matter of weeks with streets strewn with corpses.
Yet another viral contagion, smallpox, may have killed 500 million people during the course of
the 20th century (Koplow, 2003). The small pox virus, like the plague, has an intermittent record of
periodic and quite deadly attacks, which are punctuated by centuries long periods of stasis; with major
plagues, for example: 3,700 B.C, again in 3,222 B.C., then in 165-180 A.D; and in the “Americas”
1507-1520 after Aztec astronomer-priests observed a comet or flaming star (Joseph 2000); and in
northern Europe after comets were observed (Nolh 1926).
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, between 2019 and 2021, it has been estimated
that “covid 19” (caused by a coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2) has killed over 5,336,400 people and
infected over 270 million. The origins of the virus are unknown, though speculation includes comets,
laboratory escape, and transmission from animal to human.
It is commonly believed that viral agents driving pandemics originate in infected animals only to
be transferred to humans. But how did these animals first come to be infected; and what caused the viral
agent to repeatedly mutate so it could claim first animal and then human hosts? Is this a consequence of
viral-viral genetic transfers thereby fashioning lethal recombinations? Were these viruses mutated by
radiation after being lofted into the upper atmosphere? Or did they originate in space, from passing
comets, or were they embedded in meteors and meteorites and were then dispersed after these stellar
objects struck the upper atmosphere?
As is well established, Wuhan China was the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, the official
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onset of which is early December of 2019. However, based on detailed demographic data, it appears that
SARS-CoV-2 emerged in China in early October to mid-November of 2019, and by January 2020, had
spread globally (Roberts et al. 2021)--a pattern suggestive of purposeful nearly simultaneous release in
major population centers, or a spreading airborne contagion secondary to a viral-infested meteor strike in
the upper atmosphere.
On October 11, 2019, approximately one week prior to the first reported covid-cases, a huge
fireball lit up the skies of Asia, and was observed in numerous locations, including and especially in Jilin
Province, China, where it was briefly observed to have a southerly trajectory. Wuhan is 2000 km distant,
to the south of Jilin. These observations raise the possibility that a viral-infested asteroid of meteor struck
the upper atmosphere, exploded, and fragments (meteorites) and (possibly) covid-like viruses continued
their descent toward the surface (Wickramasinghe et al. 2019). If meteor-laden astro-viruses were in fact
released, dispersed, and played a role in the covid epidemic, is unknown. Given how quickly the
pandemic spread world-wide in a matter of weeks, it is quite possible that corona-viral cells were
dispersed throughout the world via the upper atmosphere following a meteor strike. However, the corona
virus also meets the criteria for the perfect bioweapon, one that rapidly and continually mutates so it can’t
be eradicated; and thus it is impossible to rule out the possibility covid was created in a laboratory and
escaped accidentally, or was purposefully and deliberately released in major population centers.
6. ERVS & Beneficial Viruses
Most viruses appear to be benign. Yet others promote the health of those they infect and even
have positive influences on the biosphere (Joseph 2010b; Suttle, 2007). For example, about 5% of the
oxygen on Earth is estimated to be produced by virus-infected cells using virally encoded photosynthesis
genes (Suttle, 2007). Viruses maintain a large reservoir of excess genes, and viral bacteriophages
commonly invade bacteria and transfer genes which improve the functioning of the host (Sullivan et al.,
2006; Roossinck, 2015, 2016; Roux et al., 2016). Many viruses coexist symbiotically with their hosts
(Metcalf & Bordenstein, 2012; Roossinck, 2015) and multiple infections overtime, may confer numerous
advantages. Consider, for example, the syncytin gene that is largely responsible for mammalian placental
development and which is derived from multiple ancient retrovirus infections (Lavialle et al., 2013; Mi et
al. 2000).
Although viruses are often associated with disease, viruses and endogenous retroviruses (ERVs)
often provide substantial benefits to the host and are often subverted by the host for its benefit (Parseval
& Heidmann 2005; Lorenc and Makalowski. 2003; Miller et al., 1999). For example, in mammals,
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including humans, ERVs play an active role in embryonic and brain development (Anderson et al., 2002;
Patzke et al., 2002; Wang-Johanning et al., 2001, 2003). DNA inserted via HGT by ERVs are also
responsible for the generation of proteins involved in the formation of the placenta (Mi et al., 2000;
Blond et al., 2000). ERVs promote cell fusion (Mi et al. 2000, Blaise et al. 2003) and provide a protective
function, allowing for nutrients to pass from mother to fetus while simultaneously protecting the fetus
against infection or rejection by the mother's immune system (Ponferrada et al., 2003; Prudhomme et al.,
2005). ERVs are also highly expressed in many human fetal tissues including heart, liver, adrenal cortex,
kidney and the central nervous system (Andersson et al., 2002). These ERV must have become very
active during the transition from egg-laying repto-mammals to therapsid to mammal even promoting
brain development and leading to the eventual evolution of humans.
ERVs are very active in the human genome (Lower et al., 1993; Medstrand & Mager 1998). They
regulate human gene expression (Jordan et al., 2003; van de Lagemaat et al., 2003) and contribute
promoter sequences that can initiate transcription of adjacent human genes (Conley et al., 2008). ERV-
derived promoters have been found in roughly a quarter of all the human promoter regions so far
examined.
7. Viruses and Evolution
Viruses have contributed innumerable genes to eukaryotes and many of these genes have played a
major role in evolutionary transitions. Thus, the eukaryotic genome, including that of humans, not only
contains DNA inserted by prokaryotes, but genes inserted by viruses (López-Sánchez et al., 2005;
Romano et al., 2007). Although the ultimate origin of viruses is unknown (Koonin et al. 2006) and
despite the association with viruses and disease, it has also been suggested that these initial (and
subsequent) viruses have played a major role in the evolution of life (Joseph 2000, Joseph & Schild
2010a,b; Koonin et al. 2006; Enard et al., 2016), leading form single celled creatures to multi-cellularity,
and then animals including humans.
Viruses serve as genetic storehouses of trillions of genes, which they can transfer to prokaryotic
and eukaryotic hosts, or to other viruses, thus directly impacting evolution (Sullivan et al., 2006; Zeidner
et al. 2005). Moreover, once these viral genes are incorporated into the host genome, they can be
transmitted, in "silent" non-acted form to daughter cells, only to be expressed thousands or millions of
years later in response to changing and specific environmental signals (Ackermann et al., 1987; Brussow
et al., 2004).
Viruses have repeatedly injected their RNA and DNA into eukaryotic genomes which are often
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passed on to subsequent species. Eight percent of the human genome consists of around 200,000
endogenous retroviruses and 3 million retro elements (IHGSC 2001; Medstrand et al., 2002). Some of
these retroviruses are active, others are silent; and to be activated require a specific genetic signal or
alterations in the environment which in turn may trigger evolutionary change and speciation.
For example, the genomes of specific endogenous retroviruses were inserted into the primate
genome millions of years ago, and then activated or silenced at key points of evolutionary divergence,
such as the split between new world and old world monkeys 60 million years ago, the split between
monkeys and apes 30 million years ago, and the split between hominids and chimpanzees over five
million years ago (López-Sánchez et al., 2005; Romano et al., 2007).
Therefore, viruses have provided prokaryotes and eukaryotes with a variety of genes and this
genetic endowment had directly impacted evolution leading from algae to Ediacarans to pre-Cambrian
fauna, the Cambrian Explosion, and from fish to frogs to reptiles, repto-mammals, therapsids, mammals,
primates, monkeys, apes and the metamorphosis of humans (Volff et al. 2001, 2003; Hude et al., 2002;
Herniou et al., 1998; López- Sánchez et al., 2005; Romano et al., 2007)--a step-wise sometimes leaping
progression that has been under genetic control. Endogenous retroviruses, therefore, can alter host gene
function and genome structure and promote the evolution of eukaryotic hosts and inducing quantum
evolutionary leaps in the absence of any intermediate forms.
However, as various stages of evolutionary divergence and development are associated with new
waves of viral infections, the question again becomes: from where did these viruses come from? Perhaps
they are the consequence of viral-viral genetic transfers thereby fashioning evolution-promoting
recombinations; or result from radiation-induced mutations after being lofted into the upper atmosphere;
or maybe they fell to Earth from space.
A related question: where did these viruses first obtain their genes which code for so many traits
and triggered the divergence and evolution of so many species including the transitions leading from
mammal to monkey to human? If extraterrestrial, then via interplanetary HGT, these viruses (and their
bacterial associates) must have obtained these evolutionary-promoting genes from life that long ago
evolved on other worlds: in which case, evolution is a form of embryology and evolutionary
metamorphosis: the replication of creatures that evolved on other planets (Joseph 2000).
8. Viruses Alter the Biosphere Which Acts on Gene Selection: Oxygen Production
All organisms can be considered to consist of packets of DNA and RNA which, via biological
activity, acts on and changes the environment; whereas the environment also acts on gene selection (De
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Jong, et al. 1976; Dykhuizen & Hart 1980; Gibson & Hogness 1996 Polaczyk, et al. 1998; Rutherford, &
Lindquist 1998; Wade et al. 1997). These genetic-environmental interactions turn on and turn off entire
networks of genes. many of which were originally horizontally transferred from viruses to prokaryotes
and from viruses and prokaryotes to eukaryotes via HGT. Coupled with subsequent biological alterations
in the biosphere, these genetic-environmental interactions form a feedback-system such that the
environment and various organisms evolve in tandem (Joseph 2000; 2010a,b); the most obvious and
important example of which is the progressive oxygenation of this planet leading to the Cambrian
Explosion of life, around 540 million years ago.
Likewise, viruses also contribute to mass extinctions (Elewa & Joseph 2009) sometimes via
alterations in the environment or via mass infections, thus essentially “clearing the path” for other species
and the next stage of evolution and metamorphosis. The possibility that viruses contributed to the
extinction of the dinosaurs after having genetically triggered the transition from egg-laying repto-
mammals to bigger brained mammals equipped with placentas, certainly supports this thesis.
Although cosmic calamities and other “forces of nature” are obviously contributory, in the long
term, the biosphere of Earth was fashioned and created biologically (Joseph 2010a). Consider, again,
oxygen, the increased levels of which not only made possible the development of oxygen-breathing
organisms that could migrate and evolve on the surface of Earth, but which triggered mass extinctions of
surface dwelling consumers of methane and carbon dioxide which were poisoned by the increasing
oxygenation of the planet (Elewa & Joseph 2009).
Thousands of viral genes embedded in the genomes of prokaryotes and eukaryotes encode and
make possible beneficial host-specific environmentally interactions such as regulating carbon
metabolism, nitrogen fixation, or vitamin B12 biosynthesis in response to availability (Evans et al., 2009;
Sherman & Pauw, 1976; Sullivan et al., 2005; Williamson et al., 2008); modulating the stress response
and resistance to chemical poisons in the environment (Williamson et al., 2008), and enhancing
photosynthetic activity and oxygen production (Lindell et al., 2004; Sullivan et al., 2005, 2006;
Williamson et al., 2008); all of which benefited and promoted the evolution of numerous species
including humans.
Viruses out-number bacteria by 100 to 1, and serve as vast genetic libraries and sources of genes
and DNA, which they can provide to specific hosts and that benefit or improve the functioning of the
recipient. Collectively viruses serve as genetic storehouses of trillions of genes that are provided to
specific hosts on an “as needed basis” (Lindell et al., 2004; Sullivan et al., 2005, 2006; Williamson et al.,
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2008). Once these virus genes are incorporated into the host genome, they may be activated or can be
transmitted, in "silent" non-activated form, to daughter cells, only to be expressed millions of years later
in response to subsequent viral invasions, and changes in the environment and specific environmental
signals (Ackermann et al., 1987; Brussow et al., 2004).
Viruses have acted and serve as a store-house for genes that code for photosynthesis (Lindell et
al., 2004; Sullivan et al., 2005, 2006) including genes making possible photoadaptation and the
conversion of light to energy (Williams et al., 2008). Some of these viruses (e.g., cyanophages) transfer to
and provide cyanobacteria and algae with genes that augment the host’s photosynthetic machinery during
periods of stress, insufficient nutrients, or reduced sunlight (Sullivan et al., 2006); and so as to pump
more oxygen into the atmosphere, thus meeting the cellular requirements of eukaryotic organisms whose
genomes have also acquired viral genes. Following repeated episodes of gene duplication, excess genes
are transferred from the host genome back to the virus genome for storage (Lindell et al., 2004; Sullivan
et al., 2005, 2006).
Likewise, photosynthesizing cyanobacteria have contributed viral and other genes to the
eukaryotic genome (Howe et al., 2008); possibly at the initial stages of terrestrial eukaryotic evolution
and periodically thereafter, thereby conferring upon non-photosynthetic eukaryotic hosts the capacity to
engage in photosynthesis (Howe et al., 2008) and to produce calcium (Joseph et al. 2013). Some of the
genes transferred by cyanobacteria triggered the development of pigmented plastids which promote
photosynthesis in plants. Plastids formed the major organelles found in plants and eukaryotic algae, and
are responsible for the synthesis of fatty acids and the storage of starch; and thus provide fuel for energy
that promotes growth, reproduction and other metabolic activity including the secretion of calcium,
photosynthesis and the production of yet more oxygen. This relationship began billions of years ago,
following viral invasions of bacteria; and oxygen and calcium began to build up in the environment
thereby making it possible for oxygen breathing animals with brains and bones to evolve and then
migrate to the land; protected now, by an oxygen induced, radiating filtering ozone layer (Joseph 2000).
9. Extra-Terrestrial Viruses, Gene Selection, Cambrian Explosion, Evolutionary Metamorphosis
Viral genes and viral elements encompass 42.2% of the human genome and almost half of the
mammalian genome (Deininger & Batzer 2002; van de Lagemaat et al. 2003). The human genome
contains 200,000 copies of endogenous retroviruses grouped in three classes (Lander et al. 2001), which
have been introduced through at least 31 infection events (Belshaw et al. 2005). Viruses have provided
many of the genes that are now active in the human genome, and which ultimately made it possible for
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metazoans, mammals and thus, humans to “evolve.”
Viruses serve as vast genetic depositories that code for a host of adaptive functions and which can
trigger bursts of evolutionary innovation and the emergence and sustenance of new species. Therefore,
when prokaryotes began to proliferate on new Earth, they were accompanied by vast viral-genetic-
libraries. And these viruses contained many of the genes necessary for genetically engineering the
biosphere and forming a complex-life-promoting oxygen-rich atmosphere the top layers of which were
transformed into radiation-shielding ozone. Those organisms equipped with these viral genes are able to
maintain or even increase photosynthetic activity and oxygen production during periods of environmental
stress, even after prolonged periods of decreased sunlight or nutritional depletion. The changing,
biologically engineered environment also acted on gene selection including activation of viral (and
prokaryotic) genes embedded in the eukaryotic genome, such that the biosphere and life, evolved in
tandem: as if under mutually coordinated and precise genetic regulatory control.
As noted viral genes and endogenous retroviruses (along with prokaryotic genes), once transferred
to the eukaryotic genome, can be passed down via daughter cells for hundreds and thousands of
generations in "silent" non-activated form (Ackermann et al., 1987; Brussow et al., 2004). Once the
planet became sufficiently oxygenated, many of these inherited genes--such as those coding for neurons,
the nervous system, and calcium uptake which enabled the evolution of bones and the skeletal system---
were expressed just prior to and within a 10 million year period during and after the Cambrian Explosion
around 540 million years ago (Volff et al. 2001, 2003; Hude et al., 2002). Whereas previous species
consisted of 11 or fewer cell types, all manner of complex animals, in the absence of any intermediate
forms, appeared in every ocean, and during a period of extreme environmental change, i.e. the flooding of
the oceans with (cyanobacteria-gene-produced) calcium, which, coupled with increased atmospheric
oxygen and ozone, led to the most dramatic explosion of life in the history of Earth. Creatures with
bones, brains, and “modern” eyes appeared in every ocean of the world; every phylum which is in
existence today (including several that immediately became extinct); and in the absence of any
intermediary forms (Levinton, 1992; Kerr, 1993, 1995).
Viral and endogenous viral genes that genetically altered the environment, allowed for the
expression of viral and endogenous retroviruses that had been passed down via daughter cells for millions
if not billions of years. Life on Earth genetically-biologically engineered the environment which acts on
gene selection thereby leading to an explosion of life, and then a progression from fish, frog, reptile,
repto-mammal, mammal, monkey, ape, woman and man. If we accept this scenario--viral genes
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genetically engineering the environment so as to activate other inherited viral genes-- then what has been
called “evolution” is under regulatory genetic control--much like the turning on and off of genes that lead
from an embryo to fetus to neonate... or the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly... But instead
of taking 9 months or a single season, it takes billions of years to “evolve” the planet so as to enable
increasing complex species to “evolve”--which means, evolution is under precise genetic regulatory
control such that traits and features already encoded in genes that are silent, come to be expressed: a
form of metamorphosis (Joseph 2000). If these genes originated in extraterrestrial viruses and
prokaryotes, then instead of a random evolution, what has taken place on Earth is the replication of life
forms that long ago evolved on other worlds; made possible via interplanetary HGT and the genetic
libraries contained in those viruses and prokaryotes that fell to Earth.
Darwin’s theory of “small step” “random” variations cannot explain the leaping progression, in the
absence of any intermediate forms, that has characterized the “evolution” of increasingly intelligent and
complex life on this planet. If not under genetic regulatory control--viral and prokaryotic genes acting on
viral and prokaryotic gene inserted into eukaryotic hosts--then what other explanations could account for
the “Cambrian Explosion” and the leaping progression that culminated in numerous species of human,
the genomes of which have been infiltrated by viral genes?
In the book “Astrobiology...” (Joseph 2000), the possibility was raised that the Cambrian Explosion
was due to the interplanetary transfer of life; i.e. complex life forms, or their immediate ancestors--along
with extraterrestrial bacteria and viruses--were deposited on Earth embedded in comets and asteroids that
originated on Mars or other planets (Joseph 2000; Joseph & Duvall, 2021). In support of this theory, is
evidence of fossilized metazoans on Mars (Armstrong 2021a; Joseph 2020b, 2021a-c; Suamanarathna et
al. 2021) and evidence that 800 million years ago, Earth (and presumably Mars) were struck by an
armada of meteorites, which may have transferred innumerable viruses and other organisms to Earth
(Joseph et al. 2020a, Joseph & Duvall, 2021). Even if Martian organisms were not transferred to Earth,
the fact that specimens on Mars that resemble stromatolites, algae, fungus, lichens, and metazoan
invertebrates are nearly identical to those of Earth (Joseph et al. 2020a,b; Joseph et al. 2021a,c;
Armstrong 2021a,b; Elewa 2021 Latif et al. 2021; Bianciardi 2022); and that based on sequential photos
fungi appear to be emerging from the soil, growing larger or smaller or moving to new locations (Joseph
et al. 2021b), should be viewed as evidence that similar species evolved, possibly independently, on two
worlds; and that the same viral genetic seeds fell upon both planets: repeated viral invasions that led to
the metamorphosis of similar forms of life independently and in parallel on two different worlds.
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10. Comets & Extraterrestrial Corals and Sponges?
On average over 2 million pounds of cosmic dust and debris falls to Earth every day. There are
estimates that up to 5000 meteorites strike Earth’s upper atmosphere each year, only about 500 of which
stay sufficiently intact to strike the surface. How many fall in the ocean is unknown but must be many
times that. If a meteor or a comet's tail crosses the orbit of Earth there may be ignition upon striking the
atmosphere, showering Earth with "shooting stars.” This is what happened in 1866 when Earth was
bombarded by over 500 pounds of meteorites that fell at Knyahinya, Hungary; within which were
discovered what may be fossilized crinoids, corals and sponges. Sponges are classified as sessile
metazoans and constitute the phylum Porifera. Fossilized specimens that resemble siliceous filamentous
sponges have been observed on Mars (Joseph et al. 2020b).
In the 1882 volume of “Popular Science” in an article titled: The Discovery of Organic Remains
in Meteroic Stones, Francis Birgham proposed that life must have evolved on ancient planets much older
than Earth, and as proof discussed “the eminent German geologist, Dr. Hahn” who “has discovered...
zoological formations belonging to different classes of sponges, corals, and crinoids” deep within
“meteoric stones” “chrondrites.” Birgham reports that “noted zoologist Dr. Weinland” confirmed “that a
large number of the formations in question are without doubt remains of coral belonging to the class of
the favositines, which on earth are now to be found only in a fossil state, and then only in the oldest of
palaeolithic stratum.... we must, therefore, accept this fact as important evidence that an organic evolution
of great similarity to that on our own earth has taken place on whatever planet from which these
meteorites originated.”
Hahn detailed his discoveries in his book: “The Meteorite (Chondrite) and its Organisms” (“Die
Meteorite (Chondrite) und ihre Organismen”) which includes 142 photographs of what Hahn, Birgham
and Weinland believed to be fossilized corals, crinoids and sponges within the samples of 547 pounds of
meteorites that fell at Knyahinya, Hungary in 1866. Hahn describes these fossilized organisms as a
“world of animals in a rock that arrived on Earth to bring us tidings from the smallest beings of a most
distant place a life-world which a mortal eye could hardly hope to behold: a world of beings...all are
lower life forms — the same ones which prevail in the Silurian strata — sponges, corals, and crinoids.”
Therefore, according to Hahn’s microscopic analysis of meteorites he cut into thin slices, what he
found were the fossils of organisms that had become extinct, on Earth, hundreds of millions of years ago.
He also found organisms that were completely alien to Earth: “I could not make a systematic enumeration
of the life which is preserved in the meteorites... I therefore only depicted the organic beings that...
coincide with terrestrial forms...” while leaving the others “to future investigation.”
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It is possible these meteorites and their fossilized cargo originated on Earth, perhaps ejected
hundreds of millions of years ago following bolide impact. However, Hahn considered that possibility
and ruled it out: “...the rock of the chondrites is not a type of sedimentary rock as on Earth, in which
fossils are embedded, that it is not a conglomerate formation; but rather, its whole mass is entirely formed
of organic beings, like our coral rocks... plant-animals! The whole stone is life.”
If we accept the possible validity of Hahn’s discovery, then, coupled with the findings from Mars,
it would appear that similar forms of life may have “evolved” on numerous worlds, including those much
older than Earth. And it would be expected that these worlds, like Earth, would have been colonized by
billions of trillions of viruses that may have obtained their genes via interplanetary HGT.
11. Extraterrestrial Viral Genes, Evolution, and Interplanetary HGT
The evidence presented in this report, supports the hypothesis that innumerable viruses, ERVs and
their genetic libraries originated in space and acquired their genes via interplanetary HGT.
Viruses fall from the sky all the time and may have done so for hundreds of millions and billions
of years. Likewise, there have been repeated invasions of ERVs that have triggered and guided the
evolution of increasingly complex and intelligent species in parallel with genetically engineered
alterations in the biosphere. It was also just prior to, during and following the Cambrian Explosion that
eukaryotic genomes world wide were invaded by ERVs; and that between 580 to 540 mya the genome
duplicated in size (Holland 1994; Dehal & Boore 2005) which in turn made possible the evolutionary
metamorphosis of complex species equipped with bones, brains, and modern eyes; including the
evolution of jawed vertebrates (Agrawal et al. 1998; Kapitonov & Jurka 2005).
Additional flurries of ERV activity are associated with the subsequent split between fish and
tetrapods 450 mya (Volff et al. 2003), the giant leap from teleost fish to amphibians 350 mya (Volff et al.
2001), then reptiles (Hude et al., 2002) and leading up to birds, mammals (Herniou et al., 1998) and
triggering the evolutionary transitions between monkeys and apes and apes and hominids (López-
Sánchez et al., 2005; Romano et al., 2007; Hughes & Coffin 2001).
The evidence from Earth, Mars, and the viruses and coral and sponge-like fossils found in the
remnants of meteors supports the theory that extraterrestrial viral (and prokaryotic) genes contain the
genetic codes for the genetic engineering of the biosphere and the evolution and metamorphosis of every
species that has swam, slithered, crawled, flown, or walked upon this planet.
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12. Concluding Remarks
In 2015, NASA incorporated, as part of its astrobiology program, the role and possible influences
of viruses on the biosphere and life on this planet (Hays et al., 2015). Viruses, bacteria, and fungi
commonly fall from the sky, and may have been deposited on Earth via meteor strikes or passing comets.
Thus the well established association between comets and plague.
As summarized in this brief article and provided in greater detail in other works (Joseph 2000,
2009b; 2010a,b, 2013), most viruses are benign or confer benefits to the host. New viral invasions--along
with environmental change--activate ERVs that have repeatedly invaded the genomes of innumerable
hosts, and that had been passed down from daughter cells for millions or hundreds of millions of years.
Genes inherited from viruses (and prokaryotes) have made possible the evolution of a life-promoting
biosphere, photosynthesis, oxygen and calcium production, the “evolution” of bones, brains, and the
skeletal and nervous system; and the major evolutionary transitions that began with the “Cambrian
Explosion” and which led to humans and numerous other species.
There is now substantial evidence that what is called “evolution” is not random, but under genetic
regulatory control. Even viral induced extinctions may be genetically regulated as these mass deaths often
promote the evolution of other species. Likewise, viral-induced plagues may have a beneficial genetic
purpose that serves the overall health of the species: elimination of the unfit.
Most likely this viral genetic ancestry leads to life that long ago evolved on other worlds. If this
scenario is correct, then evolution is a form of metamorphosis: the replication of environments and life
that long ago evolved on other planets.
Although “astrovirology” is now a recognized field of science, there is, as of this writing, no
conclusive evidence that extraterrestrial astro-viruses have been deposited on Earth via solar and galactic
winds, meteor, asteroids of comets. However, given the substantial evidence of life on Mars and possibly
other planets (Joseph et al. 2020a,b, 2021a-c; Armstrong 2021a,b; Elewa 2021; Latif et al. 2021;
Bianciardi 2022), it can be assumed that extraterrestrial viruses would also abound. Given the evidence
reviewed here and in numerous other studies, it is highly likely that these putative extraterrestrial viruses
have been and are contributing to the evolution of life on Earth, and have contributed to the plagues that
have repeatedly sickened life on this planet.
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