The associations between pathogens and their hosts are complex and can result from any combination of evolutionary events such as codivergence, switching, and duplication of the pathogen. Mycoviruses are RNA viruses which infect fungi and for which natural vectors are so far unknown. Thus, lateral transfer might be improbable and codivergence their dominant mode of evolution. Accordingly, mycoviruses are a suitable target for statistical tests of virus-host codivergence, but inference of mycovirus phylogenies might be difficult because of low sequence similarity even within families.
We analyzed here the evolutionary dynamics of all mycovirus families by comparing virus and host phylogenies. Additionally, we assessed the sensitivity of the co-phylogenetic tests to the settings for inferring virus trees from their genome sequences and approximate, taxonomy-based host trees.
While sequence alignment filtering modes affected branch support, the overall results of the co-phylogenetic tests were significantly influenced only by the number of viruses sampled per family. The trees of the two largest families, Partitiviridae and Totiviridae, were significantly more similar to those of their hosts than expected by chance, and most individual host-virus links had a significant positive impact on the global fit, indicating that codivergence is the dominant mode of virus diversification. However, in this regard mycoviruses did not differ from closely related viruses sampled from non-fungus hosts. The remaining virus families were either dominated by other evolutionary modes or lacked an apparent overall pattern. As this negative result might be caused by insufficient taxon sampling, the most parsimonious hypothesis still is that host-parasite evolution is basically the same in all mycovirus families. This is the first study of mycovirus-host codivergence, and the results shed light not only on how mycovirus biology affects their co-phylogenetic relationships, but also on their presumable host range itself.