Natural Resources, School of


Date of this Version



Evolutionary Ecology 25:2 (March 2011), pp. 403–416.

doi: 10.1007/s10682-010-9419-9


Copyright © 2010 Springer Science+Business Media B.V. Used by permission.


Many of the arthropod-borne viruses (arboviruses) show extensive genetic variability and are widely distributed over large geographic areas. Understanding how virus genetic structure varies in space may yield insight into how these pathogens are adapted to and dispersed by different hosts or vectors, the relative importance of mutation, drift, or selection in generating genetic variability, and where and when epidemics or epizootics are most likely to occur. However, because most arboviruses tend to be sampled opportunistically and often cannot be isolated in large numbers at a given locale, surprisingly little is known about their spatial genetic structure on the local scale at which host/vector/virus interactions typically occur. Here, we examine fine-scale spatial structure of two sympatric lineages of Buggy Creek virus (BCRV, Togaviridae), an alphavirus transmitted by the ectoparasitic swallow bug (Oeciacus vicarius) to colonially nesting cliff swallows (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) and invasive house sparrows (Passer domesticus) in North America. Data from 377 BCRV isolates at cliff swallow colony sites in western Nebraska showed that both virus lineages were geographically structured. Most haplotypes were detected at a single colony or were shared among nearby colonies, and pair-wise genetic distance increased significantly with geographic distance between colony sites. Genetic structure of both lineages is consistent with isolation by distance. Sites with the most genetically distinct BCRV isolates were occupied by large numbers of house sparrows, suggesting that concentrations of invasive sparrows may represent foci for evolutionary change in BCRV. Our results show that bird-associated arboviruses can show genetic substructure over short geographic distances.