Endogenous viruses: Connecting recent and ancient viral evolution.
Aiewsakun P., Katzourakis A.
The rapid rates of viral evolution allow us to reconstruct the recent history of viruses in great detail. This feature, however, also results in rapid erosion of evolutionary signal within viral molecular data, impeding studies of their deep history. Thus, the further back in time, the less accurate the inference becomes. Furthermore, reconstructing complex histories of transmission can be challenging, especially where extinct viral lineages are concerned. This problem has been partially solved by the discovery of viruses embedded in host genomes, known as endogenous viral elements (EVEs). Some of these endogenous viruses are derived from ancient relatives of extant viruses, allowing us to better examine ancient viral host range, geographical distribution and transmission routes. Moreover, our knowledge of viral evolutionary timescales and rate dynamics has also been greatly improved by their discovery, thereby bridging the gap between recent and ancient viral evolution.