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Evolution and phylogeography of the nonpathogenic calicivirus RCV-A1 in wild rabbits in Australia

Journal article
Authors Marlene Jahnke
Edward C. Holmes
Peter J. Kerr
John D. Wright
Tanja Strive
Published in Journal of Virology
Volume 84
Pages 12397-12404
ISSN 0022538X
Publication year 2010
Published at
Pages 12397-12404
Language en
Subject categories Genetics


Despite its potential importance for the biological control of European rabbits, relatively little is known about the evolution and molecular epidemiology of rabbit calicivirus Australia 1 (RCV-A1). To address this issue we undertook an extensive evolutionary analysis of 36 RCV-A1 samples collected from wild rabbit populations in southeast Australia between 2007 and 2009. Based on phylogenetic analysis of the entire capsid sequence, six clades of RCV-A1 were defined, each exhibiting strong population subdivision. Strikingly, our estimates of the time to the most recent common ancestor of RCV-A1 coincide with the introduction of rabbits to Australia in the mid-19th century. Subsequent divergence events visible in the RCV-A1 phylogenies likely reflect key moments in the history of the European rabbit in Australia, most notably the bottlenecks in rabbit populations induced by the two viral biocontrol agents used on the Australian continent, myxoma virus and rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV). RCV-A1 strains therefore exhibit strong phylogeographic separation and may constitute a useful tool to study recent host population dynamics and migration patterns, which in turn could be used to monitor rabbit control in Australia. Copyright © 2010, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.

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