In DepthEvolution

How rabbits escaped a deadly virus—at least for now

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Science  15 Feb 2019:
Vol. 363, Issue 6428, pp. 678
DOI: 10.1126/science.363.6428.678

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Summary

New research has written another chapter in the textbook case of an arms race between a host and its pathogen. The main characters in this 70-year seesaw drama are the voracious European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) and a virus deliberately released in France and Australia to kill off the rabbits and protect fields and pastures. Working with museum specimens collected decades ago, a team has discovered that rabbits on two continents evolved the same genetic changes to beat back the virus—before the virus itself changed to regain the upper hand. The find is another striking example of how evolution sometimes repeats itself, and suggests we might be able to predict nature's course in to some degree.