Timing the diversification of a mammal parasite, Bartonella
Most human infectious diseases have origins in other animal species. Estimating when infectious microbes evolved will help us understand their ability to specialize on a broad range of host species. Using Bayesian phylogenetic techniques, I determine that the bacterial genus Bartonella, a parasite of mammals globally, emerged as a gut symbiont of arthropods 100-200 million years ago. It then diversified after transitioning to a parasitic lifestyle targeting mammals and using blood-feeding ectoparasites as vectors during the Cretaceous, 79-145 millions years ago. Other microbes may be equally old ...
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