Data from: Population structure of two rabies hosts relative to the known distribution of rabies virus variants in Alaska
Goldsmith, Elizabeth W. et al. (2015), Data from: Population structure of two rabies hosts relative to the known distribution of rabies virus variants in Alaska, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.dc1q8
For pathogens that infect multiple species the distinction between reservoir hosts and spillover hosts is often difficult. In Alaska, three variants of the arctic rabies virus exist with distinct spatial distributions. We test the hypothesis that rabies virus variant distribution corresponds to the population structure of the primary rabies hosts in Alaska, arctic foxes (Vulpes lagopus) and red foxes (V. vulpes) in order to possibly distinguish reservoir and spill over hosts. We used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequence and nine microsatellites to assess population structure in those two species. mtDNA structure did not correspond to rabies virus variant structure in either species. Microsatellite analyses gave varying results. Bayesian clustering found 2 groups of arctic foxes in the coastal tundra region, but for red foxes it identified tundra and boreal types. Spatial Bayesian clustering and spatial principal components analysis identified 3 and 4 groups of arctic foxes, respectively, closely matching the distribution of rabies virus variants in the state. Red foxes, conversely, showed eight clusters comprising 2 regions (boreal and tundra) with much admixture. These results run contrary to previous beliefs that arctic fox show no fine-scale spatial population structure. While we cannot rule out that the red fox is part of the maintenance host community for rabies in Alaska, the distribution of virus variants appears to be driven primarily by the artic fox Therefore we show that host population genetics can be utilized to distinguish between maintenance and spillover hosts when used in conjunction with other approaches.