Madagascar mouse lemur retroviruses are diverse and surprisingly similar to ones found in polar bears or domestic sheep

Madagascar is home to a unique biodiversity with a large number of endemic species, among those many lemur species, including the mouse lemurs. This diversity is also found in their retroviruses. Biologists analyzed the mouse lemur genome and identified viruses of two classes that represent ancient infections of the mouse lemur germline. The viruses now behave similarly to lemur genes and are thus called endogenous retroviruses (ERVs). It was surprising that some of the identified retroviruses are closely related to viruses found in other, very different mammals such as polar bears or domestic sheep. This suggests an intriguing and complex pattern of host switching of retroviruses, much more complex than previously thought.

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