A Real-time Evolutionary Arms Race between Humans and COVID

Antagonistic interactions among species are an important facet of population ecology and evolutionary biology. 

Since January 2020, the society is witnessing an intense competitive interaction between man and COVID-19. Not even a day has passed without reading about the strategies adopted by these candidates. 

The players in the race are Humans (Homo sapiens) and the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus‑2 (SARS-CoV‑2, the virus that causes COVID-19). It looks like an arms race’ between antagonists wherein one is trying to overtake the other with new adaptations and counter adaptations. 

This reminds me of the The Red Queen hypothesis’. The Red Queen hypothesis was coined in evolutionary biology to explain that a species must adapt and evolve not just for reproductive advantage, but also for survival because competing organisms also are evolving. 

For the first time, with the wealth of openly available data at a global scale, an evolutionary process is being followed in real time. It looks like a real-time global evolutionary experiment and also a worldwide social experiment. The available data constitute excellent material to look into a number of evolutionary theories and concepts. 

An evolutionary approach to the pandemic is made to understand the strategies of the viral pathogen and the human host, and the coevolutionary interactions between them. 

Prof Harini Nagendra will introduce the speaker Prof H A Ranganath, a recipient of the prestigious Sunder Lal Hora Medal (2020).