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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Spatiotemporal variations in retrovirus-host interactions among Darwin's finches

Hill, Jason; Lillie, Mette; Pettersson, Mats E.; Rubin, Carl-Johan; Grant, B. Rosemary; Grant, Peter R.; Andersson, Leif; Jern, Patric;


Endogenous retroviruses (ERVs) are inherited remnants of retroviruses that colonized host germline over millions of years, providing a sampling of retroviral diversity across time. Here, we utilize the strength of Darwin's finches, a system synonymous with evolutionary studies, for investigating ERV history, revealing recent retrovirus-host interactions in natural populations. By mapping ERV variation across all species of Darwin's finches and comparing with outgroup species, we highlight geographical and historical patterns of retrovirus-host occurrence, utilizing the system for evaluating the extent and timing of retroviral activity in hosts undergoing adaptive radiation and colonization of new environments. We find shared ERVs among all samples indicating retrovirus-host associations pre-dating host speciation, as well as considerable ERV variation across populations of the entire Darwin's finches' radiation. Unexpected ERV variation in finch species on different islands suggests historical changes in gene flow and selection. Non-random distribution of ERVs along and between chromosomes, and across finch species, suggests association between ERV accumulation and the rapid speciation of Darwin's finches.Endogenous retroviruses (ERV) are inherited remains of retroviruses that have colonized host genomes during evolution. Here the authors observe considerable species-specific ERV variation among Darwin's finches, reflecting historic retrovirus-host interactions.

Published in

Nature Communications

2022, volume: 13, article number: 6033

Authors' information

Hill, Jason
Uppsala University
Lillie, Mette
Uppsala University
Pettersson, Mats E.
Uppsala University
Rubin, Carl-Johan
Uppsala University
Rubin, Carl-Johan
Institute of Marine Research - Norway
Grant, B. Rosemary
Princeton University
Grant, Peter R.
Princeton University
Uppsala University
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics
Texas AandM University College Station
Jern, Patric
Uppsala University

UKÄ Subject classification

Evolutionary Biology

Publication Identifiers


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