Free

AHG Seminar: How to survive a viral apocalypse: a rabbit’s tale

Actions and Detail Panel

Free

Event Information

Share this event

Date and Time

Location

Location

Online Event

Event description
Join us for our May Seminar with Joel Alves, University of Oxford

About this Event

In 1859, an English settler named Thomas Austin imported 24 wild rabbits to Australia so he could hunt on his property in Victoria. His attempt could not have been more successful, and in a few decades, billions of animals covered the country in what has been described as a “grey blanket”. The ecological and economic damage was devastating. When nothing seemed to be able to stop the rabbit pest, the unexpected discovery of a lethal pathogen in South America changed the course of history. Following a series of trials, in 1950 the myxoma virus was introduced into Australia as a biological control for rabbits and a couple of years later in Europe. The subsequent pandemic decimated populations but ultimately led to the evolution of viral resistance in rabbits of both continents. We investigated the genetic basis of this resistance by comparing historical rabbit specimens collected before the virus release and contemporaneous rabbit populations. By replicating our analyses in Australia, France and the United Kingdom we found a strong pattern of parallel evolution across the three countries, where the same immunity genes changed since the release of the virus. More than 150 years have passed since Austin imported rabbits to Australia. Unbeknown to him, this caused a cascade of events ultimately leading to what is considered by some as one of the greatest natural experiments of the 20th century. With rabbits and viruses still coexisting in the wild, the experiment is still ongoing. 

Share with friends

Date and Time

Location

Online Event

Save This Event

Event Saved