Biologists Uncover History of Ancient Retroviruses as Far Back as 33 Million Years Ago | Biology | Sci-News.com
The team’s findings, reported online on March 8, 2016, in the journal eLife, show that an ancient group of retroviruses known as ERV-Fc infected the ancestors of at least 28 mammal species — including carnivores, rodents and primates — between 15 million and 33 million years ago.
The distribution of ERV-Fc retroviruses among these ancient mammals suggests the viruses spread to every continent except Antarctica and Australia, and that they jumped from one species to another more than 20 times.
The study also places the origins of ERV-Fc at least as far back as the beginning of Oligocene.
“Unfortunately, viruses do not leave fossils behind, meaning we know very little about how they originate and evolve,” said team member Prof. Welkin Johnson, from the Boston College’s Biology Department.