Understanding the evolutionary history of human viruses, along with the factors that have shaped their spatial distributions, is one of the most active areas of study in the field of microbial evolution. I give an overview of our current knowledge of the genetic diversity of human viruses using comparative studies of viral populations, particularly those with RNA genomes, to highlight important generalities in the patterns and processes of viral evolution. Special emphasis is given to the major dichotomy between RNA and DNA viruses in their epidemiological dynamics and the different types of phylogeographic pattern exhibited by human viruses. I also consider a central paradox in studies of viral evolution: Although epidemiological theory predicts that RNA viruses have ancestries dating back millennia, with major ecological transitions facilitating their emergence, the genetic diversity in currently circulating viral populations has a far more recent ancestry, indicative of continual lineage turnover.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


Data & Media loading...

  • Article Type: Review Article
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error