Interplay between co-divergence and cross-species transmission in the evolutionary history of bat coronaviruses


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Publication Date

March 2018


Coronaviruses (CoVs) have been documented in almost every species of bat sampled. Bat CoVs exhibit both extensive genetic diversity and a broad geographic range, indicative of a long-standing host association. Despite this, the respective roles of long-term virus-host co-divergence and cross-species transmission (host-jumping) in the evolution of bat coronaviruses are unclear. Using a phylogenetic approach we provide evidence that CoV diversity in bats is shaped by both species richness and their geographical distribution, and that CoVs exhibit clustering at the level of bat genera, with these genus-specific clusters largely associated with distinct CoV species. Co-phylogenetic analyses revealed that cross-species transmission has been more common than co-divergence across coronavirus evolution as a whole, and that cross-species transmission events were more likely between sympatric bat hosts. Notably, however, an analysis of the CoV RNA polymerase phylogeny suggested that many such host-jumps likely resulted in short-term spill-over infections, with little evidence for sustained onward transmission in new co-roosting host species.


Virus, Bats, Evolution, Coronaviruses, Phylogeny Co-Divergence, Cross-Species Transmission

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Infection, Genetics and Evolution, Vol. 58 (2018-03-01).