Boston College researchers have discovered several 30 million year old viruses that had an effect on many of the world’s mammals. The group of viruses they found is referred to as ERV-Fc. The mammals the viruses were found in tell researchers that those viruses spread to each of the world’s continents, with the exception of Australia and Antarctica.
Research has determined that these viruses were present since the Oligocene epoch began. The Oligocene epoch was a period of time in which there was a dramatic change in the global climate. This change in climate is what led to the Ice Ages.
At that time some of the world’s most predominate mammals came into existence. Researchers thoroughly combed through the mammalian genome sequence databases to pinpoint the exact location of these viruses as well as to determine how the viruses adapted to each mammal they ended up in.
Sequences were reconstructed to determine the presence of genomes. Using the reconstructed sequences researchers were able to discover the history of each of the ERV-Fc viruses as well as their relationships to each other. Changes in the virus’s genes were also studied. This helped explain exactly how the viruses adapted to each mammal they were found in.
The research performed at Boston College determined that the viruses traded genes back and forth, pointing to the role of genetic recombination in their success throughout the evolution.
One of the Boston College researchers that worked on this has stated that the genomes found in these mammals contain ancient viral fossils in the hundreds of thousands that closely resemble ERV-Fc.
Researchers plan to utilize viral sequences that date back to ancient times in order to gain new insight regarding viral infections that have emerged since the time of ERV-Fc.
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