Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 25, Issue 2, pp 403–416 | Cite as

Isolation by distance explains genetic structure of Buggy Creek virus, a bird-associated arbovirus

  • Abinash Padhi
  • Amy T. Moore
  • Mary Bomberger Brown
  • Jerome E. Foster
  • Martin Pfeffer
  • Charles R. Brown
Original Paper


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.


Arbovirus Buggy Creek virus Cliff swallow House sparrow Swallow bug Virus evolution Virus population genetics 



Plaque assays of the BCRV isolates were done in Nicholas Komar’s laboratory at the Division of Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. House sparrow nest counts were provided by Valerie O’Brien. For field, laboratory, or technical assistance, we thank Susan Beckett, Jillian Blackwell, Ron Bonett, Eric Edwards, Allison Johnson, Jennifer Klaus, Valerie O’Brien, Cheryl Ormston, Nicholas Panella, Sunita Quick, Sara Robinson, Rajni Sethi, Stephanie Strickler, Karen Winans, and Gudrun Zöller. The School of Biological Sciences at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln allowed us to use the Cedar Point Biological Station, and the Union Pacific Railroad and the Robert Clary, Dave Knight, and Loren Soper families allowed us access to land. Dany Garant and two anonymous reviewers provided helpful comments on the manuscript. This work was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (AI057569) to C.R.B. and the National Science Foundation (IBN-9974733, DEB-0075199, DEB-0514824) to C.R.B.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Abinash Padhi
    • 1
    • 3
  • Amy T. Moore
    • 1
  • Mary Bomberger Brown
    • 1
    • 4
  • Jerome E. Foster
    • 1
    • 5
  • Martin Pfeffer
    • 2
  • Charles R. Brown
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of TulsaTulsaUSA
  2. 2.Institute for Animal Hygiene and Veterinary Public HealthUniversity of LeipzigLeipzigGermany
  3. 3.Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics, Department of Biology, 208 Mueller LaboratoryThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  4. 4.Tern and Plover Conservation PartnershipUniversity of NebraskaLincolnUSA
  5. 5.Department of Preclinical Sciences, Faculty of Medical SciencesUniversity of the West IndiesSt. Augustine, TrinidadWest Indies

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