Baculoviruses occur widely among Lepidoptera, and in some species of forest and agricultural insects, they cause epizootics in outbreak populations. Here we review recent developments in baculovirus ecology and evolution, in particular focusing on emerging areas of interest and studies relating to field populations. The expanding application of molecular techniques has started to reveal the structure of baculovirus populations and has highlighted how variable these pathogens are both genotypically and phenotypically at all levels from within individual hosts to among host populations. In addition, the detailed molecular knowledge available for baculoviruses has allowed the interpretation of gene functions across physiological and population levels in a way rarely possible in parasite-host systems and showed the diverse mechanisms that these viruses use to exploit their hosts. Analysis of the dynamic interactions between insects and baculoviruses, and their compatibility for laboratory and field experiments, has formed a basis for studies that have made a significant contribution to unraveling disease interactions in insect populations. In particular, manipulative studies on baculoviruses have been instrumental in developing an understanding of disease transmission dynamics. The results so far indicate that baculoviruses have the potential to be an excellent model for investigations of changes in virulence and resistance in fluctuating and stable host populations.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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