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Hitting snooze on the molecular clock: Rabies evolves slower in hibernating bats
Date:5/18/2012

iability in the rate of evolution in different rabies viruses, comparable to the differences seen between viruses of entirely different families. The analysis also suggested that viral genetic traits were not chiefly responsible for this variation since rates seemed to shift freely throughout the ancestral history of the rabies virus as it jumped into new bat species.

"Earlier studies led to the conclusion that viral genomic traits are driving the evolution rate," Streicker said. "It turns out that's not the whole story. In this case, host biology plays an important role."

The trait that best correlated with the rate of viral evolution was not the host's evolutionary history. It was its climatic region, which affects the bats' behavior.

Rabies in tropical bats goes through more generations per year than in temperate bats, a mechanism also hypothesized to accelerate how quickly the molecular clock ticks in free-living tropical plants and animals. The rapid evolution in rabies viruses provided the researchers with an opportunity to examine one of the mechanisms thought to drive the differences in evolution and species diversity across latitudes from the poles to the tropics.

"This is just another example of how the fast pace of evolution in RNA viruses makes them exceptional tools for understanding simultaneously ecological and evolutionary processes," Streicker said.


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Contact: Daniel Streicker
dstrike@uga.edu
706-542-3485
University of Georgia
Source:Eurekalert

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