Date of this Version
Molecular Ecology (2008) 17, 2164–2173; doi: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2008.03747.x
Determining the degree of genetic variability and spatial structure of arthropod-borne viruses (arboviruses) may help in identifying where strains that potentially cause epidemics or epizootics occur. Genetic diversity in arboviruses is assumed to reflect relative mobility of their vertebrate hosts (and invertebrate vectors), with highly mobile hosts such as birds leading to genetic similarity of viruses over large areas. There are no empirical studies that have directly related host or vector movement to virus genetic diversity and spatial structure. Using the entire E2 glycoprotein-coding region of 377 Buggy Creek virus isolates taken from cimicid swallow bugs (Oeciacus vicarius), the principal invertebrate vector for this virus, we show that genetic diversity between sampling sites could be predicted by the extent of movement by transient cliff swallows (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) between nesting colonies where the virus and vectors occur. Pairwise FST values between colony sites declined significantly with increasing likelihood of a swallow moving between those sites per 2-day interval during the summer nesting season. Sites with more bird movement between them had virus more similar genetically than did pairs of sites with limited or no bird movement. For one virus lineage, Buggy Creek virus showed greater haplotype and nucleotide diversity at sites that had high probabilities of birds moving into or through them during the summer; these sites likely accumulated haplotypes by virtue of frequent virus introductions by birds. Cliff swallows probably move Buggy Creek virus by transporting infected bugs on their feet. The results provide the first empirical demonstration that genetic structure of an arbovirus is strongly associated with host/vector movement, and suggest caution in assuming that bird-dispersed arboviruses always have low genetic differentiation across different sites.